NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- A Southern California golf course was bustling with Major League Baseball stars on Monday afternoon, as former All-Star outfielders Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr., teamed with MLB to co-host the annual fundraising Celebrity Golf Invitational to benefit kids at the MLB Youth Academy."This event is
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- A Southern California golf course was bustling with Major League Baseball stars on Monday afternoon, as former All-Star outfielders Torii Hunter and Gary Matthews Jr., teamed with MLB to co-host the annual fundraising Celebrity Golf Invitational to benefit kids at the MLB Youth Academy.
"This event is so special because guys come over from the National League, the American League, past and present players come together and play golf for a good cause," Hunter said before teeing off at the Newport Beach Country Club. "We really want to give these kids a better chance than we had to get to the Major Leagues."
It's the second straight year that Hunter has been a host, and he was pleased to share the responsibility with Matthews, a close friend and former teammate with the Angels.
Registration proceeds for the event and money raised from the silent auction will go toward supporting the Youth Academy through the non-profit MLB Youth Foundation.
"They do amazing things for boys and girls and coaching in baseball and softball and I love the fact that there's also a career-development component to it," Matthews Jr. said. "It's just a really good program that MLB has."
Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado were on hand to do their part to help the next generation of baseball and softball players.
Hicks is revered by kids who come through the Compton Youth Academy, where his name is emblazoned above a Yankees logo on the left-field wall of the main field. He was one of the first Compton Academy alumni to be selected in the MLB Draft.
"To be a role model for other kids coming up through the Urban Youth Academy means a lot," said Hicks, a first-round pick of the Twins in 2008. "You always want to be somebody that someone else can be proud of."
MLB Youth Academy alumni, including Mets first baseman Dominic Smith, Phillies infielder J.P. Crawford and Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka, were recognized for their contributions to the Academy at a dinner reception following 18 holes of golf.
Smith and Crawford both made their MLB debuts this season, and they played together at the Compton Youth Academy until they were both selected in the 2013 Draft. Both players were also teammates on the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) team that won the Junior Division Baseball Championship at the 2009 RBI World Series.
"It means the world to me," Smith said. "I started off at the Urban Youth Academy when I was 11 years old, and for them to help me along my career and to help guide me to this position, it's a tremendous honor. I'm just very thankful for the time that they put in with me and just helping me get to this point."
MLB Youth Academies offer year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as off-the-field resources, including SAT and ACT preparatory classes for young people ages 5-17, all at little to no cost. Since its opening in 2006, more than 140 Academy alumni have been selected in the MLB Draft and hundreds more have advanced to collegiate baseball and softball programs.
"For me, it was a life-changing experience, somewhere I went to for everything," Smith said. "I went there for help with school tutoring and SAT and ACT prep, stuff that geared me to get ready to go to college. I also went there for baseball training and great instruction. Without them, I really don't know where I'd be right now."
Baseball lifers participating in Monday's events included: Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, Angels manager Mike Scioscia, Rockies manager Bud Black, Red Sox bench coach Ron Roenicke, Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey and former MLB players Chuck Finley, Eric Chavez, Bret Saberhagen, Garret Anderson, Jim Abbott, Mark Gubicza, Ken Landreaux, Eddie Guardado, Derrek Lee, Dmitri Young, John Buck, Gregg Olson, Darren Oliver, Jerry Hairston Jr., LaTroy Hawkins, Brett Tomko, Mickey Hatcher and Jerry Manuel.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.