Van Hekken pitched for the Whitecaps in 2000, putting up impressive numbers that still rank among the team's finest in its 19-year history. His 16 wins that season is tied with Jon Connolly's 16 in 2003 as the team record for wins; and he still ranks in the top 10 in team records for winning percentage (.727, 8th), ERA (2.45, 8th) and strikeouts to walks ratio (3.41, 10th).
A third-round draft pick by the Mariners in 1998, Van Hekken made his major league debut on September 3, 2002, for the Tigers, throwing a complete game shutout for a victory against the Cleveland Indians. He made five major league starts that month, going 1-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 innings pitched. He played in the minor leagues for the Tigers for the next two seasons, then spent the next two years with the farm systems of the Braves, Reds and Royals. In 2008 he signed with the Astros and played mostly for their AAA team for four seasons. He then signed with the Nexen Heroes of the Korea Baseball Organization before the 2012 season. He is scheduled to begin his second year playing in Korea shortly after the banquet.
The Whitecaps Winter Baseball Banquet begins at 5:45 p.m. with a silent auction of sports memorabilia and other items. The silent auction will be followed by dinner, a live auction, the Whitecaps Hall of Fame induction and the guest speakers, including Detroit Tigers President/CEO/General Manager Dave Dombrowski, Tigers outfielders Quintin Berry and Andy Dirks, and Tigers pitcher Drew Smyly.
Proceeds from the Winter Baseball Banquet go to the Whitecaps Community Foundation, which will donate all funds from the event to the YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities. More than $505,000 has been raised through the Whitecaps Winter Banquet for the charities.
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 more than $7 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.
Tickets are on sale now and the deadline to purchase them is Monday, January 14. 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 $900 each. Individual tickets are $80 per person. Raffle tickets are $5 each or five for $20. Those unable to attend but willing to support the charities are welcome to donate any amount. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Whitecaps at (616) 726-7017.
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.