LOS ANGELES -- The Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award, presented annually by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, wouldn't exist if not for the man who will receive it Saturday night.In fact, the entire foundation wouldn't exist if not for native Angeleno Dennis Gilbert, who will receive the award from Winfield and
LOS ANGELES -- The Dave Winfield Humanitarian Award, presented annually by the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, wouldn't exist if not for the man who will receive it Saturday night.
In fact, the entire foundation wouldn't exist if not for native Angeleno Dennis Gilbert, who will receive the award from Winfield and Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf at the Foundation's annual fundraising dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
"This year they turned the tables on him and are honoring Dennis," said Winfield. "He is a true baseball man, he loves the game, the people in it. He has a true affection for the overlooked, the downtrodden and has done so much for others that you can see, and things you don't see."
Gilbert's role as a co-founder of the Professional Scouts Foundation started humbly enough when he heard that a full-time scout, recently downsized to part-time status, had died suddenly, leaving his widow and three children with no insurance or funds to pay for a funeral.
"It was a crime," said Gilbert, who paid for the services.
At the next Winter Meetings, Gilbert huddled with longtime executive Roland Hemond, Mets scout Harry Minor and White Sox executive David Yoakum, and the Scouts Foundation was born. Saturday night's fundraising dinner -- hosted by MLB Network's Matt Vasgersian, Eric Byrnes and Joe Magrane -- is the 13th annual. Proceeds help support scouts and their families who have fallen on hard times.
"It's given me a lot of gratification," said Gilbert. "We were able to help 25 families last year. Because our community is very close-knit, we know these families are legitimately in need and with the money raised by the dinners, we were able to help."
Gilbert has been a familiar face at Dodger Stadium pretty much his entire life, having grown up in the Southland and followed the club since the starting rotation included Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. He's been a season-ticket holder for decades, occupying his seat directly behind home plate.
But Gilbert's baseball interests are not limited to the Major Leagues. To Winfield, Gilbert's community efforts will have a lasting impact on players who otherwise would have been overlooked.
"He wants to see baseball flourish again in the inner cities where he personally knows great athletes have come from," said Winfield. "His friends and connections in the game cut across so many levels. He is the man behind the success of the Scouts Foundation Dinner and the good it does for so many. Had he gained an ownership of an MLB team, as he wanted, no doubt we'd have worked together. Dennis deserves this honor, and I'm pleased to present it."
Gilbert was part of a group that bid for the Dodgers in 2012. He grew up on the outskirts of South Central Los Angeles and played American Legion ball with future Major Leaguers Bob Watson, Bobby Tolan and Dock Ellis. When his playing career stalled in the Minor Leagues, Gilbert's career path turned to life insurance sales, and he built a powerhouse agency catering to the entertainment world's rich and famous.
But his baseball passion continued to burn, and when he was sought out by the family of George Brett to help in contract negotiations, it relaunched Gilbert's baseball career as one of the game's most powerful player agents. Over time, his client stable included Mike Piazza, Rickey Henderson, Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Jose Canseco, Bret Saberhagen and Curt Schilling.
Gilbert retired from player representation in 1999 and a year later, he was tapped by longtime friend Reinsdorf to be his special assistant, focusing on contract negotiations and scouting for Reinsdorf's White Sox.
While also still running his Beverly Hills insurance agency, Gilbert was just as busy in Southland philanthropy. His legacy is cemented by the baseball stadium he built at Southwest College in the same neighborhood where he played American Legion ball. "Dennis Gilbert Field," dedicated in 2002, is the home field for MLB's Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities program (RBI). In addition to Winfield, among the Hall of Famers expected to participate at Saturday night's event are Andre Dawson, Ferguson Jenkins, Frank Thomas, Joe Torre, Tom Lasorda and Tony La Russa.
**Ken Gurnick** is a reporter for MLB.com.