MURFREESBORO — You’ve got to hand it to MTSU baseball when it comes to staging fun fundraisers.
The Groundhog Day Luncheon, which celebrated its 42nd year in early February, has long become a huge community event. The floor of Murphy Center is filled with Blue Raiders supporters enjoying a country-style meal in what has become the annual kickoff to the upcoming college baseball season.
But just for sitting around and swapping stories, enjoying fellowship, consuming great grub and listening to good music, it’s hard to beat the John Stanford Grand Slam Fish Fry. That’s not to mention the usual outstanding items that have been donated for the silent auction.
Named for the former Blue Raiders baseball coach and athletics director, the 33rd annual John Stanford Grand Slam Fish Fry is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the MTSU Livestock Center. A group of boosters dubbed Krewe de Blue will be cooking the traditional offering of fried catfish along with gumbo and hot dogs, while music will be provided by The Russ & Becky Jeffers Band.
Both the Groundhog Day Luncheon and John Stanford Grand Slam Fish Fry continue a long tradition of baseball fundraisers handed down from Stanford to former Blue Raiders baseball coach Steve Peterson to current skipper Jim McGuire. This is the third year the event has been named for Stanford, who passed away in 2013.
“Coach Stanford’s legacy is still a major part of Blue Raider baseball,” McGuire said. “We decided to honor the legacy of coach Stanford by naming the fish fry in his honor. Fundraising was such a big part of what coach Stanford and coach Peterson did to move this program along, and we continue to do that, but it just seemed right to name this event in coach Stanford’s honor, and the feedback has been great.”
Silent auction items include a signed Atlanta Braves lineup card from the game of former pitcher John Smoltz’s Major League Baseball record 55th save, a signed jersey from former Baltimore Orioles and Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson, a signed baseball by Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols and a bat signed by the entire 1996 Ohio Valley Conference championship MTSU baseball team.
Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door and can be purchased at the MTSU athletics ticket office at Gate 1A of Floyd Stadium, visiting GoBlueRaiders.com or calling 615-898-2013. Children 6 years old and younger are admitted free.
Jernigan honored again
Former Eagleville High linebacker Nathan Jernigan is putting together quite a junior season for the Cumberland University football team.
Last Tuesday, he was named the Defensive Player of the Week for all college football levels in the state by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association. He becomes the first college football player in the state to have earned the award twice this season on either offense or defense.
In winning the award, Jernigan had 11 tackles with a forced fumble and pass breakup in the Bulldogs’ win a week ago Saturday over Mid-South Conference rival Pikeville. He also recovered an onside kick in the final minutes and tackled the Pikeville quarterback on the Bears’ final offensive play of the game.
Jernigan leads the team in tackles this season after also topping the squad the past two years.
Two weeks ago, MTSU linebacker T.T. Barber was named TSWA Defensive Player of the Week for his play against Illinois. He was preceded by Maryville College cornerback Nasir Beyah, Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Jernigan.
Tusculum College running back Isaac Robinson was named TSWA Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a school-record 250 yards against Brevard College. Previous winners included UT-Martin quarterback Jarod Neal, Tusculum College quarterback Luke Lancaster, Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch and Tennessee Tech wide receiver Brock McCoin.
Greg Pogue is host of The Greg Pogue & Big Joe Show on WNSR 560 AM. E-mail him email@example.com and follow on Twitter @ThePoguester.