MLB stars, celebs take field for CA fire victims

California Strong softball game attracts large crowd to Malibu

January 14th, 2019

MALIBU, Calif. -- Green shoots now carpet the scarred Santa Monica Mountains, nature's initial healing from the deadly November Woolsey Fire.

But nature can heal only so much, and Malibu residents , , Mike Moustakas and Mike Attanasio wondered soon after the blaze: What can we do?

What they did on Sunday was pretty amazing. A couple text messages two months ago led to Sunday's California Strong Celebrity Softball Game at Pepperdine University in Malibu, where the breathtaking Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island backdrop belied the devastation wrought by a wildfire and mass shooting that physically and emotionally buckled this community.

A standing-room-only crowd at Eddy D. Field Stadium attended on Sunday, with all proceeds going directly to victims of the California wildfires and the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in nearby Thousand Oaks. 

"The conversations started because we live in Malibu and we didn't know if our houses survived," said Braun. "When we realized our houses survived, the conversation quickly turned to, how can we use our platform and wealth of people in the area to help the people rebuild? In times of need, look at all of the people that banded together and do something awesome for the community."

The three players who were teammates in Milwaukee last year called on the Major League community for support. Attanasio, son of Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, marshalled resources and arranged for a partnership with the YMCA of Southeast Ventura County.

The Hollywood community joined to assist those impacted not only by the wildfire, but the mass shooting that occurred two nights before the fire erupted. Leading into Sunday's event, the California Strong campaign had raised $450,000 in donations.

"This isn't a short-term fix," said Mike Attanasio. "We're here for the long run, to make sure people know they haven't been forgotten."

The celebrity turnout on Sunday was Malibu eclectic: Charlie Sheen, Jamie Foxx, Brad Paisley, Adam Sandler, Robin Thicke, Rainn Wilson, Mira Sorvino and Pia Toscano.

"When you get the call personally from Ryan Braun and Christian Yelich, you can't say no," said Sheen, who was limited to coaching by a shoulder injury.

"I grew up in these parts. I see houses where my friends lived -- just gone. The night of the fire, I couldn't find my parents for 10 hours. The community was torn apart and we're here today to lend our names and talents and baseball skills to do something good. If what we're doing today gives somebody affected one moment of relief or hope, then our efforts here are successful."

Foxx lives only minutes from the site of the Borderline shooting and close to the Hill Fire, which broke out hours before the Woolsey Fire.

"You see fires destroy a lifetime of belongings, you see a shooting in Thousand Oaks, the safest place in the world, but when was the last time you heard about it?" said Foxx. "My thing is not just to raise money, but have a conversation. We're the smartest country in the world. When something happens, we adjust. We need to adjust, so our kids don't have to wonder if there will be anything left for them."

Country music superstar Paisley splits time between Nashville and Montecito near Santa Barbara, an area still recovering from last year's Thomas Fire and subsequent mudslides.

"We were real close to the fires last year. Next thing you know, there's a shooting at the Borderline club, where so many of my friends frequented," said Paisley. "It's so hard to see these things happen, let alone the double-whammy of the fire afterwards. So, when called to rope me into this thing, I'm happy to make a fool of myself for this cause and for this community."

The NFL was represented by Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. There was a Heisman Trophy winner, Matt Leinart, former NBA stars Reggie Miller, Dennis Rodman and Don MacLean, plus MMA star Chuck Liddell.

Among the retired Major Leaguers was Derrek Lee, whose home one mile away suffered major damage in the fire, as well as Royce Clayton, Jered Weaver and Jack Wilson.

Of course, with Brewers Yelich, Braun and (free agent) Moustakas headlining, their fellow Major Leaguers were all over campus, including Turner, , , , , , , and .

"We're a tight-knit brotherhood, and when something like this happens we try to come together and take advantage of our platform and do some good," Turner said.

Brewers Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Uecker shared public address announcer duties.