2010 National League Rookie of the Year Buster Posey, left, signs baseball memorabilia for fans, including 9-year-old Austin McCorkle, right, during the Transitional Learning Center’s 2nd annual “Steak” a Claim in Education fundraiser at Chehaw Thursday night.
ALBANY — Nine-year-old Austin McCorkle's eyes lit up when his raffle ticket was drawn Thursday evening, giving him a one-on-one autograph session with pro baseball star Buster Posey.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for a kid who idolizes the Lee County native and San Francisco Giants catcher.
It was that kind of evening for many fans of Posey, who was the guest speaker at the Transitional Learning Center's 2nd annual "Steak" a Claim in Education event.
The function, which was held at the Creekside Education Building at Chehaw, raised funds and awareness for the Lee County School System's Transitional Learning Center.
Posey, who won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2010 and helped lead the Giants to their first World Series since moving from New York in 1958, gave a 13-minute speech in front of around 400 children and adults near the end of the event, concluding a night that featured educational booths and a silent auction full of Posey memorabilia from his playing days at both Florida State and San Francisco.
While attendees were bidding at the silent auction, The Herald caught up with Posey, who suffered a season-ending injury May 25 during a home-plate collision with the Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins. He is still recovering from the broken left fibula and three torn tendons in his ankle.
"I still feel it, no doubt," Posey said of his injury. "It's something that will stay with me for a little while. It's just a matter of me staying up with my rehab."
And according to team trainers, Posey's recovery has been faster than expected. He finished up his latest rehab stint in Scottsdale, Ariz., and is now resting at home in Leesburg with his wife, Kristen, and their 3-month-old twins, Lee and Addison.
"I finished up in Arizona on Nov. 5," said Posey, who has been taking batting practice, running and catching. "You can't really simulate a game situation, but I think we ramped up the intensity enough to where I feel good coming into this stretch in the off-season."
Dozens of items were auctioned at the event, but for many the highlights were the Posey memorabilia, which included game-worn FSU catching equipment, a signed Giants jersey, game-used bats and several autographed photos.
Posey said it was his mother, Traci Posey, who rounded up much of memorabilia, including his old catching gear.
"I knew it was for a good cause, so I was happy for her to do it," said Posey, who added that his mom had the gear stored away in a barn. "I didn't even know she had it. I wouldn't even be surprised if she didn't know she had it. But I thought it was pretty cool. Hopefully it can raise some money."
Austin, fourth-grader at Twin Oaks Elementary School in Leesburg, said his favorite item in the silent auction was the set of Posey's FSU shin guards.
"I watched him in the World Series, but liked him during the season," said Austin, who was decked out in a Posey T-shirt underneath a Posey jersey. "I got to be a big collector."
Twila Mathews, director of the Alternative School in Lee County, said she knew inviting Posey to the event would draw hundreds of fans.
"Buster is a great kid, and education is very important to him," Mathews said. "He graduated fourth in his class from Lee County High and won the highest academic award at FSU. We knew that he could draw a crowd and speak about education."
During his talk, Posey gave advice to the numerous kids in the audience about setting objectives, achieving goals and having a positive outlook on life.
"In baseball, it's a game of failure as we all know, and if you don't have that positive outlook, you are in for a long haul," Posey said.
And two months after Posey was reassured by Giants manager Bruce Bochy that he would definitely return as the team's catcher in 2012, his outlook was about as positive it could be Thursday evening.
"I don't think I would be playing if I didn't think I could get back to the level I was at (before my injury)," he said. "(Bochy) does a great job of giving his players confidence, and it's nice to know that they are still going to count on me."