SAN DIEGO -- Joe Thatcher wouldn't be the first professional athlete to move from his hometown to a city of, say, a much warmer and sunnier climate -- like San Diego.

But the Padres' reliever knows there's truly no place like home -- Kokomo, Ind. Thatcher grew up there, he'll be married there next month and his parents still reside there.

Giving Spirit
MLB in the Community

"It's just home," Thatcher said. "I love San Diego and spending time there. But here ... you see people that you grew up with. And I've always received so much support from the community. I have people tell me that the first thing they do each morning is to check the box score to see if I pitched."

On Nov. 17, Thatcher and his family gave something back to Kokomo, serving as hosts for the fourth annual "Pitch in for Youth" dinner and live auction at the Kokomo Country Club.

The proceeds were split between the Carver Community Center as well Thatcher's charity endowment fund.

"I played basketball there from the time I was 8 until I was about 14," Thatcher said of the Carver Community Center. "It makes you feel good to give back. This year, the director of the board told me that the money would keep the doors of the community center open another year.

"It feels good to give back. This is such a close-knit community."

Dick Enberg, who is part of the Padres' broadcast team, spoke at the event.

This year, the event raised close to $40,000, a figure that surprises Thatcher, who doesn't have to think too far back to remember a modest start.

Thatcher still remembers where he was and what he was doing when he decided that it was time for him to give back to his community.

"I just remember, I was sitting in the bullpen in Arizona and my mind started wandering," Thatcher said. "I starting thinking that it was time to give back. We decided to have the dinner the first year. We didn't really know what we were doing. But we had a pretty good turnout."

And now?

"It's gotten bigger every year," Thatcher said.

Thatcher is quick to give credit to his parents, Phil and Sara, for their work with the dinner and auction. Thatcher's fiancee, Katie, and her parents -- yes, they are from Kokomo as well -- are also part of the team responsible for making his event happen.

Thatcher said there were some gems among the auction items, many of which he collected during the regular season. But it wasn't just baseball items.

"[Packers quarterback] Aaron Rodgers always sends a jersey and a football. Adrian Gonzalez sent some stuff. When teams come to town during the season, I figure out a way to get something sign so that we can auction it. This year, the Pacers got involved. We also raffle off a trip to San Diego, three nights and a couple of games.

"We keep coming up with new ways to raise money."