The Good Greek himself, Spero Georgedakis, played a key role this summer in returning the first home run ever hit for the Miami Marlins to the man who hit it, Jeff Conine.
Plans call for the ball, which Conine hit as a member of the then-Florida Marlins in 1993, to be auctioned with the proceeds benefiting the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
The ball came to Georgedakis through a chain of events that culminated with Conine, former ball owner Daniel Taylor and Georgedakisrecently meeting at the Rybovich Superyacht Marina. It was a moment captured by the Palm Beach Post.
“I was happy to get the ball and it was fun to meet with Daniel and Jeff – it was the first time Jeff had seen the ball in 28 years,” said Georgedakis. “I was also happy to suggest that the ball get auctioned to fund the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital because I know Jeff has a connection with the hospital.”
Conine and his wife, Cindy, have been involved with the hospital since he came to the Marlins from the Kansas City Royals, where he started his career. The couple raises money so families can stay for free in the “Conine Clubhouse” while their children undergo treatment at the hospital.
Conine confirmed to the Post that he likes the auction idea. “At the end of the day we’re all human beings and when you can do something that can take care of somebody in a time of need, that makes me more proud than anything,” he said.
The road to the marina meeting started with Conine’s bat on March 5, 1993. On that day, the Marlins took the field for the first time in a spring training game. Conine hit a ball out of the park.
He told the Post that “at the time I didn’t realize the significance of that baseball. Years down the road when you think that was a first in the history of the franchise, I probably would have pursued it a little more if I had realized it back then.”
However, a man named Bill Beltinck did pursue the ball, according to Taylor. Beltinck outran a Marlins employee through a muddy area to reach the ball first. Taylor told the Post that Beltinck later turned down offers from the Marlins to get free tickets to a game in exchange for the ball.
Taylor bought the ball from Beltinck, who lived in Michigan and kept it ever since at his home in Jupiter Island.
Taylor turned down offers for the ball over the years. The included two Harley Davidson motorcycles worth $10,000 each and an offer for free dental work. But in recent years, he decided it was time to sell.
He was at a point where he had become frustrated with endless negotiations when a Good Greek moving truck drove by his house. Good Greek is the Official Mover of many Florida sports teams – including the Marlins – and logos of teams are on the side of the moving trucks.
Taylor saw the logos and thought: “Maybe that’s the guy.” And it was. Georgedakis purchased the ball for an undisclosed amount and then contacted Conine. That led to the meeting and the decision to pursue a charity auction.
Conine said he’s thankful to be able to make use of the ball. “That would be the ultimate,” he told the Post about auctioning the ball to raise funds for the hospital. “Everything we do with the golf tournament, the poker tournament and other things done over the years just to raise money so another family can stay free of charge, that’s what it’s all about.”