COMSTOCK PARK, MI - Arctic cold, snow and fire won't stop the Whitecaps from holding the 20th Whitecaps Winter Baseball Banquet, scheduled for Thursday, January 23 at DeVos Place in downtown Grand Rapids.
This year's Winter Banquet is expected to be larger than ever, as the Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan is scheduled to attend. David Dombrowski, Tigers President, CEO and General Manager, will lead a group of more than 20 Tigers players, coaches and staff, which is scheduled to include 2013 American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, several former Whitecaps players, and new Tigers players Joba Chamberlain and Steve Lombardozzi. Dombrowski and select Tigers players are scheduled to speak and/or take questions during 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 ceremony and the guest speakers. Whitecaps General Partners Lew Chamberlin and Dennis Baxter will also address the crowd regarding the recent fire at Fifth Third Ballpark and the organization's plans to rebuild.
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 $565,000 has been raised through the Whitecaps Winter Banquet for the charities. Former Whitecaps pitcher Jon Connolly is the lone 2014 inductee to the Whitecaps Hall of Fame. Connolly, a starter for the Whitecaps in 2003, holds the Whitecaps all-time single-season record for ERA (1.41) and is tied with last year's inductee, Andy Van Hekken, for most wins in a season with 16. He holds the Whitecaps record for shutouts with five and is second on the Whitecaps all-time leaderboard in winning percentage (.842). His dominating 2003 season earned him a spot on the Midwest League Post-Season All-Star Team. Connolly is scheduled to be in attendance at the Banquet to accept his induction award.
In addition to the dollars raised at the banquet, the Whitecaps and Tigers have partnered with Mittens for Detroit, a charitable organization established by actress Erin Cummings, on a mitten and glove collection drive. Cummings is scheduled to meet and greet banquet guests and the first 100 guests to donate new mittens or gloves will receive a limited edition Miguel Cabrera Triple Crown Fathead collectible. Mittens and gloves collected will be donated throughout the greater Detroit and Grand Rapids communities.
The YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program, funded by the West Michigan Whitecaps Community Foundation 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 $14 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 Tuesday, 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) 784-4131.
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.