JONESBORO, AR (A-STATE) – The Arkansas State baseball program held the 14th annual "Grand Slam Banquet" Tuesday night, Feb. 16 in front of a sold-out crowd at the Convocation Center.
The event began with fans getting a chance to participate in a silent auction that featured an array of items including A-State apparel, memorabilia from current and past MLB stars, food, household items, and much more. Fans were then treated to a fantastic meal, courtesy of Gene Vance and Bistro on the Ridge.
The function continued with the 2016 Red Wolves introducing themselves in their position groups along with the coaching staff. Head Coach Tommy Raffo made some remarks about the upcoming season before he awarded the John Knight Baseball Mangers' Scholarship to Miles Clover, Chris Dean, Lucas Williams, and Hunter Schneider.
Master of Ceremonies and A-State baseball play-by-play announcer Matt Stolz kept the program moving along as auctioneer Joel King was introduced and conducted a live auction featuring a Stan Musial autographed bat, Mickey Mantle autographed baseball, Joe DiMaggio signed "Yankee Clipper" picture, Muhammad Ali autographed boxing gloves, and a Mickey Mantle autographed picture. All of the live auction items were donated by Phil Ford and presented with a certificate of authenticity.
After the live auction, Raffo announced the creation of the Ed Way Heart and Hustle Award in memory of the late Ed Way. Coach Raffo was then joined on stage by Way's wife, Dianna, and son, Phillip, where the award was presented to A-State seniors Austin Baker and Ty White.
The night concluded with a question and answer session with former Major League Baseball player Rick Ankiel. He shared his story of becoming one of baseball's top pitching prospects to making the transition to becoming a position player for the majority of his career. He also touched a number of other subjects before concluding the ceremony.
Ankiel signed autographs before the event in a special reception and also stayed afterwards to sign autographs for even more fans.
The 2016 season is set to get underway Friday, Feb. 19 against UAB at Regions Field in Birmingham, Ala., at 4 p.m. The Red Wolves' home opener is schedule for Friday, March 4 against Milwaukee with first pitch at Kell Field/Tomlinson Stadium set for 6 p.m.