Vandy fans pack baseball banquet

Over 300 Commodore baseball fans attended the 2005 Meet the Commodores Baseball Banquet at the Mariott Stadium Club Friday night.<P> <i>Note: We are happy to welcome Katy Hamlett to the VandyMania staff. Hamlett recently reported on Matt Freije's return to Nashville. Katy will cover Vanderbilt baseball. </i>

Guests who attended the banquet in past years were pleasantly surprised with the elegance of this year's event.

Among those who were impressed was Lee Ann Hawkins, wife of long-time supporter Charlie Hawkins who passed away last summer.

"It's much larger and more sophisticated," Mrs. Hawkins said. "Of course our program has gotten more sophisticated also."

Though this year's banquet decor and style differed from past preseason dinners, getting fans up close and personal with Coach Corbin and his team was still the primary feature in the event.

Vanderbilt fans got a chance to meet the Commodore baseball team, take pictures, and get player autographs in the hour before dinner.

The younger Commodore followers at the meet and greet seemed especially excited to meet their taller role models.

"That's the big reason I brought my son, so he could see the players so close," Vanderbilt alum and father Rob Gallagher said. "It shows kids what they can be if they study hard, get good grades, and play well."

Commodore fans also got to meet one another, and it was a particularly special time for the Hawkins family.

"Tonight there are people who played ball with Charlie at Vanderbilt, so that makes it really wonderful," Mrs. Hawkins said. "Jimmy Miller, Jack Miller, Jerry Fredrick, Jim Fleming, they're all here, a bunch of those old characters."

During the autograph session, supporters got a chance to bid on silent auction items, including black and gold jerseys autographed by the entire team.

In the lobby, banquet guests got a chance to view the plans for the new Commodore's locker room and other facilities, in addition to picking up 2005 media guides and game schedules.

After the autograph session and auction wrapped up, fans and players were greeted by the event's emcee, Joe Fisher, in the ballroom before dinner.

"As I look around tonight, I know what a wonderful time it is to be a part of Vanderbilt baseball," Fisher told the crowd.

Sports Operations Director Kevin Colon also addressed the Commodore crowd.

"Tonight is about success, success of our men's baseball team," Colon said. "I'm really looking forward to this upcoming season."

After dinner, guests were treated to the 2004 highlight video, in memory of Charlie Hawkins, III, former Commodore baseball player and Hawkins Field namesake.

"This experience has been so wonderful for our family," Mrs. Hawkins said.

The film featured an introduction with pictures of the opening of Hawkins field, followed by highlights from the Commodores 2004 season, including clips from Vanderbilt's first ever NCAA super regional appearance.

Following the film, Coach Corbin took the stage to introduce the 2005 Commodore line up.

"It's the most amazing thing is when he stands up, with out notes, and introduces every player and tells all about him," Hawkins commented.

Corbin talked about the work ethic and personality of all his players, occasionally cracking a few good-natured jokes about the Commodores.

"They'll probably never know how much I respect what they do," Corbin said after player introductions. "I'm a demanding guy, I expect a lot of them, but I get a lot back in return."

The banquet wrapped up with a few final words from Corbin, who challenged Commodore fans to surpass Middle Tennessee State University in baseball attendance this season.

"We'll take care of our business," Corbin said. "Your job is to try to fill Hawkins Field up."

The 2005 Commodore Baseball banquet wrapped up the preseason and sparked anticipation for the Dores' second season in their new facilities. The 2005 season is set to kick off Friday, February 18, at Hawkins Field.

* * * * *

Plans for facilities improvement

Autographs with the team

A happy Commodore fan

Autographed jersey at Silent Auction

Hawkins family table

Photos copyright 2005 by Katy Hamlett for

Commodores Daily Top Stories