Saturday, May 03, 2008
Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Third Annual Gala
"Come On!! This is not only for the kids--it's for pitching. Everyone wants to see good pitching!! Show us what you got!!" Our General Manager Jim Bowden was in PRIME FORM. Standing on stage at The Gaylord National Resort--ANIMATED--encouraging the many assembled guests to bid early and bid often in this evening's Live Auction. The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation was holding their Third Annual Gala. A Fundraiser to provide support for their three cornerstone projects.
Over 750 guests on hand at the Prince Georges County Hotel & Convention Center local--including virtually the Entire 2008 Version of Our Washington Nationals--players, coaches, manager and staff--as well as the hosts for this evening's event--Hall of Famer Don Sutton and his broadcast partner--Bob Carpenter. You better believe--The African Queen and I were in attendance.
"We have done very well tonight, although I don't know the exact figures yet," stated Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Chair Marla Lerner Tanenbaum. "But, I am sure we have completely outdone our effort from last year's Gala." In 2007--The Second Annual Gala raised over $454,000 for their projects.
Nearly 120 donors provided sports memorabilia, vacation packages, wine gift packs, fine dining, spa treatments and jewelry--among many other items--for auction. 16 Different Major League Baseball Teams participated by offering items to The Dream Foundation. The Washington Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, Mystics and DC United also provided auction items--as well as a handful of NBA, NHL & NFL Teams--including The Boston Bruins, Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams, Dallas Stars and Dallas Mavericks.
"Everybody was into the spirit of the evening," said Alphonso Maldon, Jr.--President of The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation (shown above alongside his wife Caroline and Sohna). "We had some nice items up for auction to help the kids. It's always good when people come out to have a good time and help our initiatives. I thought everything went really well."
The three cornerstone projects for The Dream Foundation include: A State of The Art Diabetes Care Complex at The Children's National Medical Center in NE Washington; The building of a Youth Baseball Academy in DC, and their Neighborhood Initiatives. Funding and support for The Hopkins Branch of The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The only Club still located in a Public Housing Project. The Hopkins Branch is located less than two miles from New Nationals Park. And The Earth Conservation Corp. A next door neighbor of Our Washington Nationals. The ECC is a non-profit group dedicated to helping youths re-shape their lives, while restoring The Anacostia River and the surrounding environment.
Before the live auction began--there was a Silent Auction held during the Pre-Dinner Program Reception. Guest, Players, Staff and Patrons could place their bids on a myriad of items laying on the many tables in the ballroom. After the cocktail hour--everyone was escorted into the main ballroom for Dinner and the Live Auction. Eight Big Ticket Items were available including VIP BATTING PRACTICE, GOLF OUTING WITH A PLAYER, A SUITE FOR A NATIONALS HOME GAME WITH THE NEW YORK METS, AND A RFK STADIUM MEMORIAL PACKAGE (including four seats from The Old Ballyard on East Capitol Street).
But nothing beat the performance by Jim Bowden. Standing on stage--Our General Manager raised the level of the entire bidding--with some serious off the cuff auction items. Included--A Complete Team Collection of Baseball Caps signed by The Entire 2008 team. Batting Practice and Dinner with Ryan Zimmerman. Hitting and Batting Practice from a player and coach from Our Washington Nationals. Infielders, outfielders, catchers--you name group--JimBo was offering up not only their autographs--but a chance to meet them too. His best offer--be The General Manager for a day--sit in his GM Box for a couple of innings in an upcoming Home Game of Our Washington Nationals--make trade offers. Watch the brain trust at work--see first hand how they act and react to the action on the field. A wild opportunity. Most of these items sold at auction for well over $4000 apiece.
Honestly--He was good. JimBo was putting on a show and everyone was enjoying his banter. "We asked him to be involved and he (Bowden) took it to a whole new level," exclaimed Mr. Maldon. "He really had people excited. "You got to like that."
Even Neal Liberman--The CEO of Gifford's Ice Cream and Candy Company--was on board handing out his signature Dream Foundation Fundraiser--"The Dinger" as an after dinner treat.
This was enjoyable event. Sohna and I sat with Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte for dinner. But, we mingled all night long. "The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" was extremely pleased with his Silent Auction Wins. A Photo of John F. Kennedy after throwing out a First Pitch at RFK Stadium in the early 1960's and an autographed Dick Butkus Chicago Bears Helmet. "I will pick up anything with JFK on it," said Chad Cordero. "My fiance really wanted the Butkus Helmet, So, I just had to pick it up for her. She is going to love it."
"The Chief" was looking good in his tux. And of course--had to pose with The African Queen for a photo. Sohna and I chatted with him for some time after dinner. Our Number 32 is quite the pleasant man to speak with.
Enjoyment which Mr. Bang!! Zoom!! and his partner David Jageler always provide. Charlie Slowes is one funny man. Of course--his spotting of Agent 99 (The African Queen) got us all off on another tangent of stories that filled the entire evening with laughter. Charlie and Dave are as good in person as they are on the radio. A whole lot of fun. We love those guys.
An affection which Sohna also has for her buddy--Don Sutton. The very moment this Hall of Fame Pitcher spotted The African Queen in the Foyer at The Gaylord Resort--he immediately bowed in her direction. "So, are you a Princess yet?" he exclaimed and came over to greet us. Later, Sohna told Mr. Sutton that when we visited The Baseball Hall Of Fame this past January--she had purchased a special HOF Engraved Bat for him to personally sign. "Those Cooperstown Bat Company bats are excellent," said Don. "I would be honored to sign it for you." Of course--when The African Queen mentioned that the very first item she went to view and take a picture with at The Baseball Hall of Fame--was his Enshrinement Plaque--Don Sutton and Sohna exchanged a serious High Five in Celebration. Quite the characters those two when together.
After the dinner--everyone was invited down to The Nationals Pastime Bar in the Atrium of The Gaylord Resort. This Washington Nationals Centric Sports Bar was open for The Post Gala Party. Drinks and desserts were served to anyone wishing to partake. Although far from the last one's to leave--Sohna and I did not return home until nearly 1AM Sunday Morning.
Attending The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation Gala was well worth the effort. Their Cause of Helping Children Noble. The atmosphere and enthusiasm surrounding the night--simply enjoyable. We had a great time. So did everyone else.
Other photos from this evening:
With Mark Lerner
With Manny Acta
Jennifer & Dave Jageler with Christina & Charlie Slowes
PS--Yeah--How About that "Guz" this afternoon?! Six RBI on a two run homer, a three run double and one run single. Our Number 15 even perfectly shaded Nate McLouth up the middle to help record the final crucial out to lead Our Washington Nationals over The Pittsburgh Pirates at New Nationals Park 9-8. A never ending game that had the feeling of he who bats lasts--wins. Pitching was not a strong point in this affair. But we enjoyed the salute to The Negro Leagues. The Homestead Grays versus The Homestead Grays. The Pittsburgh Gray Away Retro Uniforms were OK. Our Washington Nationals red trim Grays jerseys--mighty sharp. I loved the two tone socks. In fact, Ronnie Belliard told Sohna and I this evening, at the Gala, he enjoyed wearing this particular outfit today--more than the Cream Color and Navy Blue Grays Uniform the team wore in 2007 during their previous Negro League Tribute Game. And yeah, Sohna and I watched this entire game in person and then high tailed it home to re-dress for The Gala. Sorry, no recap today--only so much time in the day.
Guzman InGame Photo--(AP) Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Gala Photos--Nats320, All Rights Reserved