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The announcement was made by master of ceremonies Frank Frangie on Wednesday night at this year’s induction ceremony at the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa. The event honored 2017 enshrinees Tim Tebow, Chipper Jones, Warrick Dunn and former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, all of whom attended.Also inducted posthumously was former LPGA star Colleen Walker, a Jacksonville native who played at Florida State before her success in professional golf. She died of breast cancer. Her family accepted the award.”We have been to Pensacola several times, and we’re blown away by the community,” said Florida Sports Hall of Fame President Barry Smith. “We wanted to move this event to different parts of the state, and we had never really done anything in the Panhandle, so this will be great to get there.”Wednesday’s induction event included speeches from all the honorees. The loudest reception was for Tebow, who grew up nearby and played high school football at Neace High near St. Augustine.The exact date or location for Pensacola’s turn at the FSHOF induction hasn’t been finalized, but it will likely occur sometime in November 2018. The event will include a golf tournament the previous day for sponsors and interested participants.NFL Hall of Fame memberEmmitt Smith is among three athletes from Pensacola who have been inducted into the Florida Sports Hall of Fame. The annual ceremony will come to Pensacola in 2018. (Photo: Tom Pennington, Getty Images)The induction banquet will have public sale for sponsorships, tables and individual tickets. Wednesday night’s event was sold out. Individual dinner tickets went for $160 apiece.Hosting the event will be a breakthrough for Pensacola, which is the hometown for many of Florida’s all time greatest athletes, including NFL Hall of Fame members Emmitt Smith and Derrick Brooks and MLB Hall of Famer Don Sutton. The three athletes are Pensacola’s only members of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, which has 253 members after Wednesday’s inductions.Sutton, who won 324 games in 23 seasons and is seventh on the MLB’s career strikeouts list with 3,574, is a possible choice for master of ceremonies at next year’s event.”I’ve been involved in sports events all my life, so I know to help lead the planning and I learned some things we can do to spice it up even more,” said Gulf Breeze businessman Gordon Sprague, the vice president of the Hall of Fame’s board of directors.Sprague was part of a contingent from Pensacola attending Wednesday night’s induction event at Sawgrass Marriott, located adjacent to the PGA Tour headquarters and the TPC Sawgrass complex where the Tournament Players Championship is held each year.Also attending were Ray Palmer, executive director of Pensacola Sports and Bruce Baldwin, former chairman of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.Baldwin has known Chipper Jones, a Jacksonville Bolles High grad, since the former Atlanta Braves infielder made his pro debut in the minor leagues. Jones, who batted an astounding .303 for 19 years in the big leagues, is expected to be a first ballot selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018.Baldwin worked for the Atlanta Braves for more than 25 years.Last weekend, Sprague and Smith toured the National Naval Aviation Museum on Pensacola Naval Air Station, which is a favored site for the 2018 induction. It would need to be on a different week in November, however, to avoid conflict with the Blue Angels Air Show.The two were joined by Keith Hoskins, former Blue Angels pilot from 1999 2001 and former base commander at Pensacola NAS. Hoskins, now the Western District general manager at Gulf Power, was named to the FSHOF board of directors earlier this year.The museum’s lobby can easily be converted to stage the induction ceremony and banquet dinner.”We toured five different locations in Pensacola and each one of them could hold the event,” Sprague said.The inclusion of Pensacola into a rotation of various cities hosting the FSHOF induction is a significant breakthrough for many reasons. In the past, the area felt shunned when it came to recognizing some of the top athletes in state history.Next year’s induction could be the opportunity to include athletes such as Justin Gatlin, Roy Jones Jr. and Jerry Pate, all of whom grew up in Pensacola, graduated from high schools in Pensacola and went on to worldwide fame in their respective sports. The original location was in Winter Haven, then it moved in 1990 to Lake City.After struggles earlier this decade, the FSHOF now displays its memorabilia at the Central Florida Visitor Information Center in Davenport.Under Smith and Hogan’s leadership, the FSHOF has been steered in new, broader direction.When he visited Pensacola in April, Hogan said the quest was put less emphasis on a museum location and more on statewide events and the FSHOF website to broaden awareness.”The days of people packing up the family and getting in the car and driving somewhere to visit a museum with artifacts, baseball bats and jerseys is not very likely,” Hogan told the News Journal in April. “What we do is far more than what’s in those cases and displays.”
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