The West Michigan Whitecaps’ 17th annual Winter Baseball Banquet raised a record $43,313 for charity Wednesday night at the Frederik Meijer Gardens. The event raised funds for the Whitecaps RBI/YMCA Inner-City Youth Baseball and Softball Program and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Ilitch Charities. The $43,313 raised brings the grand total of funds raised for charity through the winter banquets over the past 17 years to more than $461,000.
The total raised edged out the funds raised for charity at the 2007 banquet, when nearly 1,000 attended to see Tigers manager Jim Leyland and a caravan of Tigers stars fresh off their World Series appearance three months prior.
Tigers CEO, President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski was the featured speaker at the event. Other special guest speakers were Whitecaps’ 2011 manager Ernie Young, former Whitecaps and current Tigers players Will Rhymes and Brennan Boesch.
WOOD TV 8’s Jack Doles announced the 2011 inductees into the Whitecaps Hall of Fame; they are 2003 Whitecaps and current Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya, 1994-1998 Whitecaps and current Tigers Head Groundskeeper Heather Nabozny and 1996 Whitecaps and current Cincinnati Reds catcher Ramon Hernandez. Zumaya and Nabozny were both present to accept their awards for the induction.
Silent and live auctions of sports memorabilia and other items were the primary source of fundraising at the event. The top item of the night was the use of Dave Dombrowski’s personal luxury suite for a Tigers game (donated by the Tigers Foundation), which sold for $3,800 in the live auction. Dombrowski then graciously threw in a second suite at the same price to the other high bidder for another $3,800. Other top live auction items were a spring training trip for two, including airfare, four nights in a hotel and tickets to three Tigers games ($3,500); a Windy City Adventure for four including Cubs tickets, an on-field photo opportunity at Wrigley Field and four VIP tickets to Shedd Aquarium ($3,100) donated by the Cubs and Shedd Aquarium; and a World Series package that includes two tickets to games 3 and 4 with hotel ($2,500).
Top silent auction items included three innings on the air on a Whitecaps radio game broadcast ($1,200), a Kirk Gibson autographed jersey ($999) donated by the Tigers Foundation, the use of a Whitecaps suite for a game with a $100 catering credit ($600) and two Tiger Stadium seats ($550) donated by Jeff Spurrier.
Two raffles, including one that included a 40-inch TV and a Microsoft XBox with Kinect system, raised a total of $5,795.