The Florida State League announced that the Charlotte Stone Crabs are the 2018 Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award winners. The Stone Crabs were recognized for their continued support of local veterans, highlighted by their Purple Heart Saturday promotion.
In 2017 the Stone Crabs initiated a Purple Heart program, in which a different combat wounded veteran was recognized and honored at every Saturday night home game. In 2018 the team expanded this program even more which included Stone Crabs players wearing special Purple Heart themed jerseys. These jerseys were auctioned off following the end of the season to help raise funds as well as awareness for all local veterans. During the 7th inning of each Purple Heart Night the Stone Crabs stopped the game to honor a local veteran by bringing the honoree onto the field and acknowledging some of their heroic accomplishments. Following a live singing of "God Bless America" every member of the Stone Crabs team personally thanked the local hero.
The Charles K. Murphy Patriot Award, named after former Florida State League President Chuck Murphy, is presented to a club or individual employed by a club for outstanding support of and engagement with the United States Armed Forces and veterans, both at the park and in the community.
"The Stone Crabs have always supported the Veteran community," says Art McGinnis, Commander, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Chapter 759. "From Veteran Appreciation games each season to the team created POW/MIA Chair that was installed at the Sports Park a few years ago, which will always remain empty to represent those missing in action and cannot be here. The Stone Crabs have a very special relationship with all veterans, and especially Purple Heart recipients." McGinnis continued.
"It's an honor to play a small part in recognizing those that have served this country to protect its freedoms," said Jeff Cook, Stone Crabs Assistant General Manager and the brainchild of Purple Heart Saturday's. Cook continued, "We continually want to find ways to honor our heroic veteran community and each year we try to find ways to enhance what we do for these heroes. Both of my grandfathers served in WWII and my father in Vietnam. I personally understand the sacrifice the men and women of this country make, and I greatly appreciate their service."
"I'm not sure the Stone Crabs truly understand the impact they have on our veterans," said McGinnis. "At the conclusion of the first ceremony the Stone Crabs players and coaches stopped the honoree before he could leave the field so they could all shake his hand. This is not a requirement of the team, they are in the middle of a game after all. It was a spontaneous appreciation of the honoree's service and sacrifice and something the team has continued to do each and every game," said McGinnis. "The men who have received this honor have expressed to me that they have never received such recognition and they all were overwhelmed with emotion." McGinnis concluded.
"To be given an award named after Chuck Murphy is truly overwhelming. Anyone who had the great pleasure of knowing Chuck Murphy would agree that he was as good a human being as they come and was a true American hero," said Stone Crabs General Manager, Jared Forma. Forma added, "To be recognized by the Military Order of the Purple Heart for the small part we play in recognizing our local veterans is a real honor. It's amazing to see the impact a small thank you can have and I urge everyone to continually thank our heroes. I cannot thank Jeff Cook and Art McGinnis enough for what has become an unbelievable partnership and we will work even harder to find more ways to say thank you to our heroes, because they all deserve it."
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.