The grand and storied Plaza Hotel at the celebrated address of Fifth Avenue and 59th Street in New York City served as host for the 55th Rawlings Gold Glove Award® Presentation Ceremony presented by Gold Sport Collectibles the evening of Nov. 9, and Major League Baseball stars past and present were the featured guests.
MLB Hall of Fame residents Bob Gibson, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., Frank Robinson and Andre Dawson were among the award presenters. Former New York Yankees greats Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams – a pair of former MLB All-Stars who have come up just short of enshrinement in Cooperstown – handed out the 2012 Gold Glove Awards to the winning first basemen and center fielders, respectively.
Robinson also presented Hall of Fame member Hank Aaron with the 2012 Rawlings Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray presented Ripken, Jr. with the 2012 Rawlings Heart of Gold Award. Smith – the winner of 13 Gold Glove Awards from 1980-92 – welcomed Bench into the Rawlings Gold Glove Award Hall of Fame as the sixth member of that elite club. Smith, Roberto Clemente, Jim Kaat, Willie Mays and Brooks Robinson are the other Hall members.
And, of course, there was the recognition of the 19 current big-leaguers who received this year’s Rawlings Gold Awards (10 from the American League, nine from the National League), including nine for the first time. Mark Kraemer, Rawlings’ Senior Sports Marketing and Licensing Manager, took in the event with a profound sense of pride and achievement.
“It’s the culmination of Hall of Famers and Gold Glove recipients (gathering at) one of the greatest hotels in the country,” Kraemer said in a telephone interview with Perfect Game on Nov. 14. “It’s a full production and it’s just a celebration of the winners and past Rawlings Gold Glove winners that are Hall of Famers. … It’s really just a celebration of the award itself.”
Also sitting at one table in the grand ballroom at The Plaza were several Perfect Game officials and staff members, a nod to the strong working relationship Perfect Game and the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company, Inc., have enjoyed for at least the last eight years.
PG Vice President of Development Brad Clement; National Tournament Director Taylor McCollough; Western Tournament Director Matthew Bliven; and PG official spokesman Daron Sutton were joined at a table by Chuck Fox from Major League Baseball; Ted Sullivan from GameChanger; Justin Niefer from EvoShield; Joe Hamrahi from Baseball Prospectus; Jeff Kunion from the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League and Rich Hempel from eCoach/iHigh.
“Rawlings has been a longtime major partner with Perfect Game in many outstanding ways over the years,” PG’s Clement said. “We were very privileged to have a presence at the Rawlings Gold Glove gala in New York City; it was a tremendous evening spent honoring past and present MLB greats.”
Nine of this year’s 19 Gold Glove recipients are alumni of dozens of Perfect Game tournaments and showcases, including Pittsburgh Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward. McCutchen and Hellickson both played in the 2004 PG/Aflac All-American Classic and Heyward was at the 2006 All-American Classic. Hellickson was the 2003 PG National Showcase, McCutchen was there in 2004 and Heyward in 2006.
Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, an alumnus of the 2001 PG National Showcase, earned his second Gold Glove Award, as did Baltimore Orioles catcher Matt Wieters (several PG WWBA tournaments) and O’s center fielder Adam Jones (’03 PG World Showcase, PG WWBA). Jones previously won in 2009.
Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy (PG WWBA) and Oakland Athletics right-fielder Josh Reddick (PG WWBA) were also named to the AL squad. San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley (PG WWBA) joined McCutchen and Heyward on the NL team. Fifteen PG alumni, including Wieters and Gordon twice, have won Rawlings Gold Glove Awards in the last two years.
“Numerous Gold Glove winners participated in PG events and the Perfect Game All-American Classic in earlier years. It was great to see them receive their awards,” PG’s Clement said.
“It means a lot to me, for one,” the Orioles’ Hardy told Paul Casella of MLB.com. “It’s definitely an award I’ve always hoped to get, never really expected to do it, never really expected to get it. I’m surprised and honored at the same time.”
Rawlings’ Kraemer said the Gold Glove Award Presentation Ceremony provides an important platform for his company. The star power does border on the ridiculous.
“It’s a way for us to demonstrate how many people we reach and the quality of the people we have on our staff or have relationships with, and just how coveted the award is itself,” he said. He also pointed out that many ballplayers have clauses built into their contracts that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in bonus money as a reward for winning a Rawlings Gold Glove.
Rawlings has long maintained a presence at Perfect Game tournaments and showcases and for the past two years has been the presenting sponsor at the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings. It’s a business partnership that has benefitted both parties.
“It’s been one of the best relationships that we have,” Kraemer said. “It’s our way of getting to the grass-roots level and getting to the elite players at the grass-roots level. Those are the guys we want to see – the guys that are going to make it to the next level – and it’s our way to get in front of them with our brand and our messaging and imaging, and to continue to grow that.
“We’ve been a part of Perfect Game for several years now and we look forward to continuing that relationship.”
Kraemer went on to say it was important to impress upon the PG contingent at the Award Ceremony the extended-reach the Rawlings name has inside the nation’s baseball community.
“This is more of a bigger magnitude on the brand itself and our image,” he said. “This is one of the most prestigious awards in all of baseball.”
The evening wasn’t all baseball, all the time. Actor Joe Piscopo served as the Master of Ceremonies, and entertainment was provided by comedian and television star Jerry Seinfeld and the legendary Pointer Sisters. A live auction at the event raised $280,000 to support victims of Hurricane Sandy.