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Big leaguers keep drinks flowing for charity

Hamilton, Hendriks and more gather for 10th annual Celebrity Bartender Night
@JakeDRill
March 6, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy Hamilton walked into Wasted Grain in Scottsdale, went behind the bar and started to get a lesson from a bartender. However, this wasn’t Hamilton’s first Celebrity Bartender Night.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Billy Hamilton walked into Wasted Grain in Scottsdale, went behind the bar and started to get a lesson from a bartender.

However, this wasn’t Hamilton’s first Celebrity Bartender Night.

“This year, they’re actually showing us how to bartend and giving us a little lesson, and when I went over there, I said, ‘I’m a veteran, I’ve been doing it almost seven, eight years,’” Hamilton said.

For the third straight Spring Training, Hamilton is with a new team. But one thing has stayed constant every March -- his participation as a celebrity bartender at this event, which was held for the 10th consecutive year by Issues Concerning Athletes to benefit Amyloidosis Support Groups.

After playing for the Reds from 2013-18 and the Royals in ’19, Hamilton is in camp with the Giants this year. He again served as the host for Celebrity Bartender Night, partnering with real estate agent Erica Brooks, the founder and organizer of the event. Brooks lost her father to amyloidosis seven years ago, and Hamilton honored him with his player-designed “K Cancer” shirt the following year.

In addition to Major League players serving as guest bartenders, Celebrity Bartender Night features silent auction and raffle items, with all proceeds going to the support groups that fight amyloidosis, a rare disease that features abnormal proteins accumulating in tissues and organs.

Brooks was excited with the results of the event again this year, including the participation from the group of big leaguers.

“It’s amazing,” Brooks said. “The turnout, the support -- it humbles you.”

These players joined Hamilton as guest bartenders:

A’s: Liam Hendriks, Sean Manaea, J.B. Wendelken
D-backs: Edwin Jackson
Giants: Shaun Anderson, Johnny Cueto, Mauricio Dubón, Pablo Sandoval
Reds: Kyle Farmer, Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Josh VanMeter
Royals: Brad Keller, Brett Phillips
White Sox: Tayron Guerrero

The emcees for the night were ESPN broadcasters Pedro Gomez and Sean McDonough.

“It gets better and better every year,” Hamilton said. “There’s just so much support, which means a lot to me and to Erica and her family. I think highly of these guys that take time out of their day. I know Spring Training is tough and you want to be able to get your rest, but it means a lot for those guys to get out of their sleeping method and come out here and enjoy the time with us.”

Celebrity Bartender Night wasn’t limited to the players who went behind the bar, either. Others showed up to support the cause, notably a group that included new Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts.

“This is one of the best things about having Spring Training in Arizona, is you’re able to do events like this, you’re able to get a group of guys from a bunch of different teams,” said Hendriks, who participated for the third time. “Erica does a fantastic job of running this thing and getting a bunch of players here and getting a lot of support for the charity.”

Hendriks enjoyed mingling with the other players during a rare late outing on a Spring Training work night. But the A’s righty certainly wasn’t whipping up any fancy cocktails or margaritas for his customers.

“I don’t drink at all, so it’s always interesting to have the guy who doesn’t drink being a bartender,” Hendriks said. “It’s just something we can do to give back.”

Jake Rill is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JakeDRill.