Stars turn out for golf event benefiting Youth Academy
Hall of Famer Robinson hosts invitational to support Compton training facility
LOS ANGELES -- Under pristine blue skies and sparkling sunshine, celebrities in the sports and entertainment world hit the links at the Wilshire Country Club on Monday in the inaugural Frank Robinson Celebrity Golf Invitational.
All proceeds from the event went to the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, which is a free, year-round baseball and softball training facility for inner-city youth from underserved communities in the greater Los Angeles area.
Robinson, executive vice president of baseball development, was joined by fellow Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, along with basketball legends Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. Actors Benjamin Bratt, Richard Karn, Andy Garcia and Kevin Nealon also participated in the event.
"It is great to have the support. Athletes have always been willing to give themselves for a good cause," Robinson said. "There is no better cause than the youth of this country."
As participants rolled in an hour or so before their 10:30 a.m. PT tee time, many were catching up and joking around with each other. Russell and West laughed with each other on the putting green before play began, while Jackson and Baylor said friendly hellos next to the first tee box.
"That is what it is all about. We have fun, laugh at each other, and joke and poke at each other so certain guys don't make shots," Robinson said. "The idea is for everyone to come out and enjoy themselves and have a lot of fun. It is for a good cause."
While many players chose to wear traditional golf attire, Karn decided to wear tiger print pants, Garcia sported a fedora and Nealon wore a bright green T-shirt.
"I went into my closet. I have eight golf shirts and this one was in the front. It was the only clean one," Nealon joked. "I figured I can't be taken seriously as a golfer, so why not have fun with everything? I look for the joke in every swing."
Darrell Miller, MLB's vice president of youth and facility development, said that once people understand what the UYA does, they become more willing to help.
"It is so heartwarming to see so many people support the cause. You hope that people get the vision," Miller said. "People love to play golf, so once you communicate that, it makes it much easier."
One player who has benefitted greatly from the UYA in Compton is Aaron Hicks, who is a UYA alumnus and made his Major League debut earlier this year with the Twins.
A graduate of Long Beach Wilson High School and a 2008 first-round Draft pick, Hicks was excited to take part in Monday's event.
"I'm so happy to be here and show my appreciation for everything that the Urban Youth Academy has done for me," Hicks said. "It is great to see so many people that worked with me and helped me become the player that I am today. People like Frank Robinson really taught me the right way to play the game."
Jackson also has that same appreciation for Robinson, who was a big idol of his growing up.
"I really looked up to him. I learned how to be a leader and a better player thanks to him," the 14-time All-Star said. "So anytime he asks me for anything, I'm always available for him.
"I want to be able to give, especially when it comes to minorities and those less fortunate."
With the Invitational marking the Compton UYA's biggest fundraiser of the year, Miller said he hopes to raise somewhere between $100,000 to $150,000.
"What we want and hope is that people continue to come back and play every year," Robinson said. "We want to keep improving the event, add to the regulars and get a new spice every year."