01/06/09 7:07 PM EST
Dinner to aid scouts set for January 17
Annual event helps baseball people that often go unrecognized
By Ben Platt / MLB.com
"We have some really special things going on this year," said Dennis Gilbert, the former sports agent who now serves as special assistant to the chairman, Jerry Reinsdorf, of the Chicago White Sox and is one of the founders of the foundation. "If there was a theme to this, I believe it would be, 'Hollywood meets baseball.' we have Larry King as well as actors Brendan Fraser and Don Johnson serving as emcees this year. On top of that, we are going to be honoring George Brett, Goose Gossage, the former owner of the Boston Red Sox, John Harrington, Whitey Herzog and the Alou family, so it should be a very, very exciting dinner."
Created in 2003, the Scouts Foundation raises money to aid an often overlooked group in the baseball community, the scouts, who toil in anonymity, and when their careers end or if they are out of work for an extended period, sometimes face some financial hardships.
"We started something new this year," said Gilbert. "We're now helping widows of scouts who have passed away. A lot of them have little or no life insurance at all, and some of the widows were in jeopardy of losing their homes, and some of them barely had enough money to bury their husbands.
"We're getting involved with them and taking it upon ourselves to aid the survivors of the scouts. We have over 30 claims that we have taken care of over the last few years. We are helping senior scouts, who are just getting by, to live with dignity and stay in their home or apartment they live in, make sure they have food on the table and they can drive the car that they were driving. These are tough times, and I'm glad we are here to help them, and there are people out there supporting our efforts."
"The scouts are the lowest-paid people in baseball," said King, who has taken part in every one of the dinners. "Dennis has taken it upon himself, through the foundation, to make sure these people are remembered. Dennis has a thriving insurance business, but he lives and breathes baseball, and I'm proud to be involved in this dinner again."
The foundation has also received a great deal of support from Major League Baseball. Owners, general managers and executives in the game fly from around the country to attend the dinner and memorabilia auction that coincides with the event.
"Every single team in baseball is participating," said Gilbert. "The Dodgers and Angels, who are our local teams here in Los Angeles, have always supported us, not only with money, but they also buy up tables at the dinner and have a large number of their staff attend. All the teams come out to help, and I can't say enough good things about them."
One major supporter of the foundation is Commissioner Bud Selig, who will attend the dinner for the third consecutive time this year.
"It proves that Bud Selig is a true baseball person," said Gilbert. "Everything about baseball you see Bud standing behind, and when it comes to helping the scouts, he says, 'Just tell me what you want me to do, I'm happy to help out, happy to do it,' and he's done everything he said he would do, so we are extremely pleased to have Bud as part of the program."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.