EAST LANSING, Mich. - A record crowd of nearly 600 people attended the 2012 Michigan State Baseball First Pitch Dinner Saturday night at the Kellogg Center. The program honored Earl Morrall as the 2012 Spartan Baseball Alumnus of the Year and the event also featured a jersey recognition ceremony for Kirk Gibson.
Gibson became just the second player and the fourth Spartan in program history to have his jersey number (No. 30) honored, joining Hall of Famer Robin Roberts (No. 36) and Spartan coaching legends John Kobs (No. 25) and Danny Litwhiler (No. 1).
"When you play the game, you stay humble and realize it's a team sport. That (MSU) recognizes me like this, it makes you feel good," Gibson said.
"I support the program, and Jake Boss has done a really great job here. We've remodeled the baseball field, the softball field, and the soccer field. It's good to see people at this university continue to have the opportunity that I did."
Before his stellar pro career in the NFL, which included two Super Bowl Championships, Morrall was an infielder on the 1954 Big Ten Championship Spartan team that advanced to the College World Series. He was also a quarterback on the 1954 and 1956 Rose Bowl-winning football teams.
"It means a lot," said Morrall of being named the 11th recipient of the Michigan State Baseball Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award. "I'm just happy to be a part of Michigan State."
Fourth-year Michigan State head coach Jake Boss was humbled by the record turnout and was excited his current players had a chance to meet two Spartan legends.
"It was a great night," said Boss. "We were just really honored to have Earl and Kirk back. For them to share with the group what Michigan State meant to them and what the baseball program means to them was really special for our guys. It's a great way to kick off the start of our season.
"It was really a thrill to see close to 600 people here. It was really a dream and a vision of ours when we got here to grow this thing, and it's neat to see that come to fruition. For the players to see what Michigan State baseball means to the Capital Area, to the community here, and to all of the alumni, and those that have gone before us here, really makes it even that much more important. It shows our first year guys what it means to play here and what it means to put on the Green and White. It's something that's pretty special that not a lot of people get to do."
The Michigan State baseball team opens the 2012 season Friday, Feb. 17 against No. 11 St. John's in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge in Dunedin, Fla.