Players trade in bats for golf clubs
Two-day charity event in Calif. raises funds for Players Trust
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- From Jan. 22-26, defending champion Tiger Woods and some of the best golfers in the world will play the South Course of Torrey Pines at the Buick Invitational.
But on this weekend, Barry Bonds, Eric Chavez, Chris Capuano, Kenny Lofton, LaTroy Hawkins and Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield, along with representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association, corporate sponsors and invited participants, hooked up in the third annual Players Trust Golf Tournament.
The two-day event was held quietly at the Lodge at Torrey Pines, where players, baseball legends and executives, such as Major League Baseball president and COO Bob DuPuy, joined in to raise money for the association's charity, the Players Trust.
"The Players Trust is something that truly is the players' own," said Brewers starter Capuano. "It's our baby, and doing a lot of great things from local programs like 'Buses for Baseball,' where we bring inner-city kids to games and let them meet their heroes; we have action teams, taking local high-school kids, inspiring [them] to volunteer and get involved.
"On a national level, too, we're involved in hurricane relief in the gulf region and the ongoing rebuilding process there. So there's a lot of things we are involved with -- good, positive things -- and this is a really great time for all of us to be together, reaffirm our mission and raise money for the trust."
Over the years, the Players Trust has quietly helped make a difference in the Dominican Republic, where thousands of children are treated for parasites and vitamin A deficiency. The trust donates to more than 120 charities each year.
"The guys in baseball know that the trust is a good thing and they're very active in it, very hands on, and it's always nice to help as many kids as we can," said Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones. "We love it when the kids are bused in to meet us. You can see it by all the guys who come out and take time out, come out of the clubhouse and stop the things that they are doing. Players turn down interviews just to see the kids -- make sure they are comfortable and having a good time."
The San Diego native was one of many players who donated his money and time to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast.
"That was really a good trip for me -- just to go down and see the devastation," Jones said. "We've been a year removed from it, and to see all the people down there who have been active and want to get things turned around [is very encouraging]. The guys taking the time out to help the kids and help things get rebuilt was awesome."
Raising money for the trust is the top priority, but the players also enjoy catching up with one another during the offseason and playing on one of the more challenging courses in the country.
"It's good when all the players get together, come out and have some fun," said Bonds, who flew directly from Maui, Hawaii, to take part in the tournament. "It's a great course. Obviously, tournaments are played here and it's really exciting for us to be out here. It's good for all of us to get together and have the same purpose and goal right now, which is for the kids, so that's great."
"It's important to get involved in the city that you play in, and it's important for me to come back here and give to the city of San Diego, where I grew up and learned to play baseball," said Oakland A's third baseman Chavez. "It doesn't take much to come out here and play golf and mingle and take pictures. The Players Trust does such a good job, and since I've been in the big leagues, they've made some big strides. We're getting the word out there and we've been raising a lot of money for some big causes."
Chavez makes a good point, and there's a fine line that the players seem to walk between promoting their cause and not promoting themselves.
"The Players Trust does a tremendous job of helping a lot of people," said Robinson, who is enjoying his first trip to the tournament. "It goes without a lot of fanfare, they do a lot on things without the publicity, which they really don't want or need. But a lot of good things get done and that's what makes this so much fun, being around these guys and rubbing elbows with them. Any time you have a good cause, you have to show up and give them your support."
"Like BAT [Baseball Assistance Team], the trust is secret for a good reason," said DuPuy, who took part in the event with MLB executives Rob Manfred and Ethan Orlinsky. "It does what it's supposed to do, it supports charities it should support, just as BAT supports people who need assistance. We're 100 percent behind it, and we're happy to be here."
During the tournament, at least one ballplayer would be in a group of four to five golfers who would play Torrey Pines' North Course the first day and South Course the second day. The participants also took part in a fund-raising auction of baseball and sports memorabilia, with all the proceeds going to the trust. Winfield is pleased to see the progress that the trust has made over the years.
"For about 10 years, the players have really gotten together and said, 'Let's continue to do good things for the community,'" said Winfield, who lives year-round in San Diego and now works with the Padres, the team he started his big-league career with. "It's been a gradual thing, but the snowball is getting larger and it's rolling. They are making a lot of major contributions to great causes, getting people motivated when it comes to volunteerism and this is the course that they have charted.
"The players have always done good things, but sometimes the lampshade hasn't gotten off the light. The guys have continued to do good things, it's in their heart, it's in their head, in their mind and in their pocketbooks to do great things."
Last year's take for the event was more than $200,000. The Players Association hopes to exceed that amount this year.
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.