A special treat for guests at the banquet will be an appearance by two of the Detroit Tigers rising young stars, fresh off their 2011 American League Central Division Championship season. Starting pitchers Doug Fister and Rick Porcello are scheduled to mingle with guests during the pre-dinner silent auction and will be recognized during the banquet ceremonies.
The event begins at 5:45 p.m. with a silent auction and raffle of sports memorabilia as well as gift baskets, weekend getaways, event tickets, gift certificates, hot electronics and a full range of other items, services and experiences. The silent auction will be followed by dinner, a live auction, the annual Whitecaps Hall of Fame inductions and the featured and guest speakers.
Proceeds from the Winter Baseball Banquet go to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities. More than $461,000 has been raised through the Whitecaps Winter Banquet in the past 17 years for the charities.
Kurkjian is ESPN's resident expert baseball reporter and analyst. He has been with the network since 1998, both as a reporter for Baseball Tonight and a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has spent 30 years covering the game, including stints at Sports Illustrated (1989-1997), CNN-SI (1996-1997), the Dallas Morning News and the Baltimore Sun, and has interviewed thousands of players, coaches, managers and executives during his career. Kurkjian shares his hilarious and entertaining stories about the players he's interviewed, locker room antics and bizarre rituals, and fascinating insights into game of baseball as a featured speaker at charity events all over the country, as well as in his two books, Is This A Great Game, Or What? (2008) and America's Game (2000).
The YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program, funded by the West Michigan Whitecaps and Fifth Third Bank, gives approximately 1,900 children annually the chance to participate in a structured activity that provides guidance in their lives. Money raised provides the equipment and operations necessary to teach the youth self-esteem, teamwork, self-confidence and the fundamentals of baseball.
The Detroit Tigers Foundation has awarded over $6 million in Tigers tickets, grants and scholarships to local charitable organizations with a focus on youth, education and recreation since its establishment in 2005. From renovating baseball fields to rewarding academic achievement, the Foundation aids in the development and funding of innovative programs that promote the game of baseball and the good citizenship embodied in the storied history of the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers guests will be made available to the media before the event. For details regarding Tigers availability and to acquire a media credential, please contact the Whitecaps Media Relations Department at (616) 726-7067.
Tickets are on sale now and the deadline to purchase them is Monday, January 9. Two ticket options are available for fans interested in attending the event. Corporate tables include 10 tickets to the banquet, 40 raffle tickets and preferred seating, and are $850 each. Individual tickets are $75 per person. Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Whitecaps at (616) 784-4131 or visiting the Whitecaps website at www.whitecapsbaseball.com.
Those unable to attend but willing to support the Inner City Youth Baseball and Softball program are welcome to donate goods and services to the silent auction or make cash contributions; all donations are tax-deductible.
Fans should note that the Winter Banquet is not an autograph event. Although patrons are welcome to bring cameras and take pictures with Tigers guests, outside memorabilia is not allowed into the Banquet and autograph collecting will not be permitted.