HOUSTON -- For those in the crowd at Minute Maid Park on Friday who may have missed Earth, Wind & Fire's most famous hit song, "September," the first time around, there was no need to worry. They played it twice.The band, performing in front of a sold-out crowd at the
HOUSTON -- For those in the crowd at Minute Maid Park on Friday who may have missed Earth, Wind & Fire's most famous hit song, "September," the first time around, there was no need to worry. They played it twice.
The band, performing in front of a sold-out crowd at the fourth annual Diamond Dreams Gala, opened its groovy, energetic set with those famous lyrics: "Do you remember ... the 21st night of September?" and brought the song back for a second go-around at the end of the performance, delighting more than 1,200 patrons in attendance at one of the final Astros events of the offseason.
The gala, which in the past has featured performances by James Taylor, Diana Ross and Gladys Knight, is the Astros' largest fundraising event of the calendar year. Proceeds benefit the Astros Foundation as well as New Hope Housing, an organization combatting homelessness by providing housing and support services for those in need.
"Everybody loves a good party," said Astros Foundation executive director Twila Carter. "That's what we're here tonight for. We throw a great party, have a good dance band and everybody has a good time. They get their fun and funky on. It's our largest annual event and we're grateful for our sponsor, Chevron, as well as everybody who is participating."
Many Astros, past and present, attended the gala, including manager AJ Hinch and players Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Justin Verlander, Chris Devenski, Tony Kemp, Josh James, Jake Marisnick, Lance McCullers, Thomas Pressly, Max Stassi, Myles Straw, Robinson Chirinos and Tyler White. Many prospects were in attendance as well, including highly touted outfielder Kyle Tucker.
Hall of Famers Craig Biggio, Nolan Ryan and Jeff Bagwell were among the alumni at the gala, as well as Chris Sampson, Brandon Backe, J.R. Richard, Enos Cabell and Geoff Blum, currently a member of the Astros' broadcast team.
"A lot of players are here and we're happy about that," owner Jim Crane said. "They helped us raise the money, along with our fans and the contributors and sponsors that are here tonight. They pitch in and do some great things for the community."
New Hope Housing, the main beneficiary of the gala, provides life-stabilizing, affordable, permanent housing with support services for people who live on very limited incomes. New Hope's vision is to be an enduring institution serving Houston's most vulnerable citizens.
The evening included a silent and live auction, dinner, dessert and, finally, dancing, courtesy of one of the bestselling bands in history. Earth, Wind & Fire, who performed hits including "After the Love is Gone," "Let's Groove" and "Boogie Wonderland," are members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and have won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards. They've sold more than 90 million records in their history.
The gala is routinely held toward the end of January, in conjunction with the Astros Caravan and FanFest, which will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT.
After that, the focus shifts back to baseball. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 13, with position players following soon after.
The weekend festivities give the team one last chance to gather in a casual, festive environment, before it's time to get back to business and focus on the season.
"It's nice to have everybody in town," Hinch said. "You start to get the Spring Training feel a little bit. We're pretty much in touch the whole winter, but getting everybody back in the building makes you think the season's right around the corner."
Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.