Big league bartenders a hit at annual fundraiser for rare disease

March 14th, 2024
Paul DeJong serves up drinks at Wednesday night's event.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Fourteen MLB players traded their spot on the diamond for a shift behind the bar at Wasted Grain in Old Town Scottsdale on Wednesday night to help spread awareness of amyloidosis, a rare disease that affects around 200,000 Americans each year.

The 14th annual Celebrity Bartender Event hosted by Issues Concerning Athletes -- which finds temporary housing for players who relocate in February and March in Arizona -- had players such as Vinnie Pasquantino, Brent Suter and Lawrence Butler pour drinks for tips that went toward the Amyloidosis Support Groups.

“This is really special,” Suter said. “Every dollar toward research counts for the care and comfort of the patients. It goes to the right cause, and hopefully, we can get this disease straightened out, find a cure and make sure it's smooth sailing for everybody diagnosed with amyloidosis.”

Amyloidosis happens when a protein named amyloid builds up in organs, many times causing organ failure in the patient, ultimately leading to death. It is so infrequent that there is still very little information on how to prevent and treat the disease. It’s an illness that impacted Erica Brooks, the founder of Issues Concerning Athletes, as her father died from amyloidosis 11 years ago. She described her father as someone who always had a positive outlook on life and someone who fought until his very last breath.

“It's not necessarily about raising money, It's about awareness,” Brooks said. “ Someone might be able to recognize the symptoms or do research on it. If they have a relative not feeling well and they recognize it, possibly it can give them an extra hour a day, month or year with their relative.

“Having one more day with my dad who died from this disease would mean more to me than one million dollars.”

According to Brooks, $60,000 was raised last year and over time allowed the Amyloidosis Support Groups to add eight different cities to their docket, allowing them to spread more awareness for the disease while providing resources to those who are going through treatment.

The event also had a silent auction, in which prizes ranged from luxury resort getaways to signed MLB memorabilia by players such as Freddie Freeman, Salvador Perez and Corbin Carroll. In addition to the silent auction, participants in the event had the chance to win many high-end gift baskets through a raffle.

“Being a part of any cause, regardless of how much money is contributed is an awesome opportunity,” Butler said. “Anything that you can do to help the community and others is always something I want to be part of.”

In the past, the event's list of celebrity bartenders has included All-Stars such as Justin Upton, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, Robinson Canó and Todd Frazier.

Here is a full list of guest bartenders from this year’s version:

The Cubs' Jose Cuas mans the bar at Wednesday's fundraiser.

Jones, a rising star, participated in the event for the first time. As a player early in his career, Jones has the fruits of his success on the field, but has also learned how many opportunities he has to give back to the community. The lively environment and worthy cause inspired him to be proactive for future charitable endeavors.

“I never realized the impact you could have on somebody,” Jones said. “So this is really my first season where I was able to start helping and giving back, and so it's been really cool for me.

“It's amazing. Any opportunity to be able to give back and help out with my platform is a fortunate spot.”

The event is a hit every year, and there are no signs of slowing down in the future. With this being an unofficial Cactus League tradition, Brooks praises all the donors, attendees and especially the players for the support in keeping her father’s legacy alive while helping others who are going through the same battle.

“It's amazing to see the support and the guys who are bartending,” Brooks said. “Some of them don't really know me much except for when I found them their place to live. They come in full-hearted, willing to give their time and they do it all for free. They don't get paid for their appearances. It's just really nice.”