Evening on the Diamond is the marquee night for the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and has quickly become one of the top fundraising events in the Valley, and Thursday night's event at Chase Field helped the D-backs raise a record $1.8 million to benefit the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, bringing the total to nearly $10 million in the seven-year history of the event.
"Tonight was truly magical and to surpass last year's total was simply amazing. We couldn't do this without support from our great community partners who share the same mission as the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation to improve the lives of kids throughout the Valley and the state of Arizona." said D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall who also emceed the event.
With more than 700 people in attendance, the night was filled with laughter and a sense of community. Many of the top executives and leaders from around the Valley socialized with D-backs players and community partners. As guests arrived, they could place a bid on more than 260 silent auction items located along the third base line. Dinner followed with on black and white tables around the infield and food stations located around home plate.
Hall started the night with praise to everyone in attendance along with dinner co-chairs Pepsi Bottling general manager Ron Goodson and his wife Anita, followed by a presentation of the Lee T. Hanley Community Leadership Award to senator Jon Kyl.
"I can't think of a single person in public service who bears the kind of impact that Jon Kyl has made on this state. We named this award the community leadership award and we really couldn't think of someone whose commitment and impact stretched well beyond our community and Jon's community is not only our valley and our state but Jon's community is this country and we are very honored that he would accept this award," said D-backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick.
The award is named after Hanley for his philanthropic endeavors to assist Arizona charities and the community throughout the Valley and served as CEO of Vestar. Hanley received the award last year before he lost his battle with cancer shortly thereafter and the award was renamed in his honor. Kyl is the first recipient of the award named after Hanley.
"Lee fought passionately for everything he believed in and that starts with the D-backs and the foundation, but it is also attributed to his support for me and Nancy. We have been friends for a very long time and nobody was a better supporter than Lee. All I can say is thank you very much to the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and the great work it does and I hope that in the years to come we can find recipients that will live up to the great name of the award in honor of Lee Hanley," said Kyl.
After a moving heart-felt speech from Kyl, the live auction quickly ensued with a goal focused on raising money to help children across the state of Arizona. Several D-backs players and personnel were winners in the live auction which raised more than $800,000 alone.
D-backs pitcher Brandon McCarthy went home with a luxurious trip to Aspen and an ultimate golf package in Palm Springs. Luis Gonzalez will join Tony Hawk for a California Adventure and D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers was the highest bidder on a his-and-hers diamond package that featured a diamond watch and a diamond necklace. Towers and new D-backs player Cody Ross each walked away with a golf getaway to Montana via private jet. D-backs closer J.J. Putz walked away with an Italian vacation with travel starting in Florence, through the Tuscan wine country and ending in Venice and D-backs catcher Miguel Montero will enjoy a five-day escape to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Other packages included a 2013 Mustang GT from Sanderson Ford, a D-backs road trip and a fantasy baseball experience at Chase Field. The live auction item that garnered the most funds was the luxurious mountain escape to Aspen which ended up going to three separate bidders for $55,000 each for three trips for a total of $165,000.
After the live auction, guests we serenaded with a performance by multi-platinum band Chicago. The band started the night with "Make Me Smile" which was Chicago's first Top 10 record and peaked at number nine on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1970, and continued with several hits throughout the evening, including "Saturday in the Park".
Top items from the silent auction included a Pat Tillman autographed jersey that went for $2,900 and a Bubba Watson autographed pink commemorative Masters Replica driver that went for $2,650. D-backs pitcher Brad Ziegler was among the silent auction bidders and was determined to walk away with the Brad Paisley autographed electric guitar and the Carrie Underwood autographed acoustic guitar. As soon as Ziegler arrived, he made a b-line to the auction and chose to "buy it now" to assure he would walk home with both items.
In addition to the live and silent auction items, tables and general donations alone raised more than $800,000 and more than $75,000 was raised from pledge cards at each of the tables in which University of Phoenix made an additional $50,000 donation. Located on each table was a unique centerpiece that consisted of Cabbage Patch dolls that represented wishes that will be fulfilled by the D-backs and University of Phoenix from all of the funds raised throughout the evening.
Proceeds from the event benefit the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation to support various programs and this year the theme of the night was "delivering dreams for kids who need us". The foundation helps several kid-based programs throughout the state, including the School Challenge which the D-backs launched last year along with partner University of Phoenix to grant more than $250,000 to schools for improvements and building educational programs for kids and teachers in need of funding.
Katie Krause is a corporate communications manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.