01/07/2006 5:00 PM ET
Hitting the links for a good cause
Players Trust Golf Tournament raises more than $200,000
By Ben Platt / MLB.com
Dodgers center fielder Kenny Lofton shows off his picture-perfect swing. (Ben Platt/MLB.com)
Charity Golf video 56K | 350K
LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Later this month, some of the greatest golfers in the world will descend on Torrey Pines to take part in the 2006 Buick Invitational. As the workers build the grandstands on the 18th green for that event, more than 30 baseball players -- including Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mark Prior -- along with other representatives from the Major League Baseball Players Association, corporate sponsors and invited participants took part in the second annual Players Trust Golf Tournament.
The two-day event was held with no fanfare or media attention, which comes as no surprise, because the charity the participants all thoroughly support is one that flies under the radar and quietly helps a lot of people, especially children.
Over the years, the Players Trust has quietly helped make a difference in the Dominican Republic, where 73,000 children are treated for parasites and Vitamin A deficiency. It's also donated close to $900,000 for affordable day care, safe playground equipment, and dental and health services for thousands of kids and their families.
"We just try to give back to the community," said reliever LaTroy Hawkins of the Baltimore Orioles. "We want to give back to this country to some people who may need assistance, and bring kids to the ballpark who may never get the chance to see a Major League ballgame or meet a professional athlete."
"I didn't grow up with much," said Cubs outfielder Jacque Jones. "Some of these kids get to see things that they would never get to see if it wasn't for us out here fund-raising for them so they can do things and accomplish things that they never could without our help."
"Coming out here to support the Players Trust and the charities is great, and there's nothing better than having 80-degree weather in January," said Prior, a native of Southern California, who echoed the sentiment of many of his fellow players that their charitable work doesn't need a lot of fanfare.
"A lot of players don't want to take the credit for it," he said. "They want to do things behind the scenes, and the Players Trust gives [them] an avenue to do things. A lot of guys are uncomfortable with getting notoriety for their work with charities -- plus it also gives them an extension to do something with their individual charities."
The players also enjoy the time to get together before another baseball season starts and compete on the fairway instead of the baseball diamond.
"There's a lot of people out there that like to be involved with baseball players," said Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun. "Golf is kind of an ambassador sport to everyone. No matter where you come from in the world, it seems like everyone wants to get out on the golf course, and I know baseball players are no different -- we like to get out and have a good time and whack it around a little bit, and it helps us connect with people we normally don't get an opportunity to meet."
"It's really nice to get together and not worry about playing a baseball game that night or the next day," said free agent pitcher Mike Remlinger. "The people here are all pretty special people to begin with to support such a great cause, and the weather has been great. I'm just glad that I'm able to be here to help."
"The offseason is kind of tough, because everybody is spread out all over the place," said free agent outfielder Michael Tucker. "It's great when you can get everybody to come together and raise some money for some charities.
"The Players Trust has been doing some great things for the past seven or eight years. The things they've been doing and accomplishing have just been wonderful. The Players Trust came up with the buses for kids -- I don't think a lot of people know that they go out and bring kids in buses to the ballpark -- and we get to hang out and spend some time with them. It's wonderful, and it gets everyone involved."
During the tournament, at least one ballplayer would be in a group of four to five golfers who played 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.
Among the ballplayers who took part in the tournament were Trevor Hoffman, Steve Finley, Kenny Lofton, Brad Wilkerson, Eric Chavez, Zach Day, Mark Loretta, Mike Sweeney, Phil Nevin, Xavier Nady, Mark Grudzielanek, and Hall of Famer Dave Winfield.
"A lot of individuals have their individual golf tournaments for various causes," said free agent infielder Royce Clayton. "This way we get to pool our resources together, raise funds and distribute funds to organizations we find desirable. It's a great opportunity for us as baseball players to let the community know that we are actively involved -- not just in one small area."
The total take for the weekend event was more than $200,000.