SEE ALSO: BA Gala
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—Coordinating an awards show, even a modest one like the Baseball America Awards Gala, isn’t easy. I have a small role to play; BA general manager Will Lingo and marketing manager Abagail Langdon do the hard part, the logistics of setting it all up.
Mostly, I make a phone call here or there or send an email to let award winners know they’ve won and to let them know when the Gala will happen. I love the event, which had its third renewal this year after a hiatus, but which first originated in 2001 with BA’s 20th anniversary.
I wanted to do my part to make sure this one lived up to its predecessors. So when Abbey texted me to say that Mickey Moniak needed a ride from the airport, I volunteered. I wouldn’t mind driving around, even in Washington, D.C., traffic, with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft and the High School Player of the Year.
Photographer Tim Cammett is a local and came along on a dreary, rainy day to navigate, and then Abbey texted again. Essentially her question was, “Got room for one more?”
That’s how I wound up with Moniak and Kyle Lewis, the No. 11 pick in the draft and College Player of the Year, in the back of my 2011 Subaru Legacy. I can report that Lewis, coming back off a difficult knee injury, folded up nicely into the Subaru’s back seat.
Moniak won’t be driving a Subaru. On the drive back to airport, he spotted a Maserati and said, “That looks just like mine.” His dad persuaded him to get a new one, he said, realizing his son signed for a $6.1 million bonus.
Lewis also reminded me that athletes are different during his acceptance speech, saying, “I hope this is the first of many awards that I win in my career.” I like that kind of confidence, and after driving two of our Players of the Year, I can say I’d like to have both Lewis and Moniak back at a future Gala.
We also want Roland Hemond back. The 87-year-old former general manager kicked off the highlight of this year’s Gala when he introduced Pat Gillick with a touching yet funny speech introducing him as the winner of our award for lifetime achievements in scouting and player development that is named in Hemond’s honor. Gillick prompted a standing ovation when he cited John Schuerholz sitting at the Braves’ table.
One Hall of Fame GM citing another got everyone to their feet. But only at the BA Gala would Moniak and Lewis be in the same room to witness it.
Tastes Go Great Together
Our Gala attempts to bring together all parts of the baseball universe like our magazine and web site audaciously attempt to cover. We cover high schools, colleges and the draft, minor league business and minor league prospects. We’ll throw in the major leagues too, and sometimes all within 36 pages.
Or, in the case of the Gala, all in one room. Gillick could rub elbows with Len Story, our Ripken Youth Coach of the Year from Anchorage. Randy Ingle, manager of low Class A Rome, our Minor League Team of the Year, could have compared notes on his 1,500 career wins as a minor league manager with retired college coach Augie Garrido, who won 1,950 games—more than any Division I coach in history—between Cal State Fullerton, Illinois and Texas.
Coach Garrido took two teams to College World Series played in TD Ameritrade Park, named for the company directed by Tom Ricketts. Ricketts also happens to be the primary owner of the Cubs and was on hand to receive the Organization of the Year trophy, a hefty loving cup he hoisted high and carried back to his seat. The Cubs virtually took over our Gala (we love it when teams do that), bringing plenty of front-office personnel plus minor league affiliates to bask in the glow of their World Series triumph and Org of the Year hardware.
But at the back of the room, GM Jed Hoyer was busy working his phone, and as the Gala wound down, the Cubs had traded Jorge Soler for Wade Davis. During last year’s Gala, team president Theo Epstein closed the Ben Zobrist free-agent deal, seemingly right after introducing Joe Maddon as our Manager of the Year. No one multitasks like the Cubs.
In one 90-minute show, we told the story of the 2016 season at many levels, with many of the key participants in one room. It’s as much fun as it sounds, and next year in Orlando, we’ll sum up 2017.
Maybe this time, I’ll let someone else drive.