For the second year in a row, Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens and his fiancée Jessica hosted a fundraiser at the Nakama Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar on Pittsburgh's South Side. The event -- known as Karstens Kares "Cook For A Cause" -- took place on July 22 and the proceeds will benefit Pirates Charities and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
In addition to greeting more than 350 guests at two different seatings that evening, Karstens and his many of his teammates also acted as celebrity servers and bartenders and helped Nakama's chefs prepare sushi and man the hibachi tables. There was also an outdoor block party that included food, beverages and entertainment.
"I was very pleased with the turnout and Nakama put on a great event," Kartsens said. "The fans showed up, my teammates supported us and this year was a lot less hectic because we knew more of what to expect. It was organized really well and it ran very smoothly. Everybody I talked to there said they had a good time. It's for a good cause and we really like to do it."
As a regular diner at Nakama, Karstens got to know the restaurant's owner Bob Gomes -- whose daughter Katie battles cystic fibrosis -- and the idea for the charity event was born. In addition, the Pirates have a strong relationship with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation that dates back to the late 1980s. One of the key elements of that relationship is the 65 Roses Club, which is made up of avid Pirates fans who provide financial support to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Two or three times each season, its members attend pregame receptions to talk Pirates baseball and meet some of the players. Broadcasters Greg Brown and Steve Blass have been active with the 65 Roses Club for several years, and Karstens became a regular participant in 2011.
When Karstens was asked how his teammates liked performing as bartenders and assisting the chefs at Nakama he said: "Well there were some restrictions -- like nobody could clean the grill, because we didn't want anyone getting hurt. But we flipped a few things and stayed away from the fire. We let the professionals handle that. We just kind of hung out and interacted with the fans. I think the guys enjoy the bartending part because they're not doing it every night. If they were back there eight hours a day and five days a week, I think it would be a different story. But the event gets us a little bit out of our element and we get to interact with the fans and have a good time, and hopefully some kids will benefit from the charitable work that we're doing."