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Monday, January 14, 2013

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Atlanta Braves Pitching Great John Smoltz Headlines ODU Baseball Banquet

Atlanta Braves pitching standout John Smoltz, who for more than two decades garnered eight All-Star selections and the 1996 CY Young Award, will be the keynote speaker for the 36th annual ODU Baseball Banquet. The event begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel.

Smoltz began his major league career in 1998, winning 14 or more games seven times. In 1996, he compiled a 24-8 record with a 2.94 earned run average, six complete games, two shutouts, and led the major leagues in strikeouts with 276. He was also 17-3 in 1998 with a 2.90 earned run average. In 1992, he won 15 games with a 2.85 ERA and led the National League in strikeouts with 215.

Though primarily known as a starting pitcher, Smoltz was a converted reliever in 2001, following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, and spent four years as the Braves' closer before returning to a starting role. In 2002, Smoltz became only the second pitcher in history to have had both a 20-win season and a 50-save season (the other being Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley). Smoltz is the only pitcher in major league history to top both 200 wins and 150 saves. He became the 16th member of the 3,000-strikeout club on April 22, 2008, against Felipe Lopez of the Washington Nationals.

Smoltz pitched 20 years for Atlanta and one each with St. Louis and Boston. He retired after the 2009 season to finish his career with 3,084 career strikeouts, 154 saves, 213-155 record and a 3.33 ERA. He helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series, was the 1992 NLCS MVP and the 1997 Silver Slugger Award winner.

The ODU banquet has annually featured some of the top names in major league baseball. In the past, Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith, Rollie Fingers, Andre Dawson, Rich Gossage, Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Hank Aaron, Lou Brock, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Johnny Bench, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, the late Jim "Catfish" Hunter, the late Harmon Killebrew, Gaylord Perry, Jim Rice, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr., and managerial greats Tommy Lasorda and the late Sparky Anderson, have spoken at the banquet.

Individual tickets for the Friday, Jan. 25, banquet are $65 each with a special rate for groups or teams at $45 each (20-plus tickets) by calling 683-6964. Table sponsorships, which include amenities such as a VIP reception with the headliner, autographed baseballs and more, will be available as well.

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