Bruno Mars Rocks L.A. Dodgers Foundation Fundraiser
The fifth annual Blue Diamond Gala also honored Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss for their contributions to committing change through sports.
The first-place Los Angeles Dodgers spent a rare off-day at the stadium Wednesday night for a good cause: raising millions for the team's foundation that helps benefit programs for inner-city kids.
Eleven-time Grammy winner Bruno Mars headlined the fifth annual Blue Diamond Gala, which bypassed the live auction this year in favor of Dodgers broadcasters Joe Davis and World Series champion Orel Hershiser encouraging those in attendance to contribute to the L.A. Dodgers Foundation via text message. It was unclear how much the event raised as the broadcasting duo asked attendees to support programs including Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) and to support the building of additional Dodgers Dream Fields. With 50 already having been built over the program's four years, tennis icon Billie Jean King — who recently joined the Dodgers ownership alongside her partner and fellow tennis legend Ilana Kloss — revealed the team would like to add another 25 parks.
King and Kloss received a standing ovation when they were introduced by Dodgers controlling owner Mark Walter. King, who recalled growing up in Long Beach and a time at age 9 when she was saddened to learn she was unable to play baseball because of her gender, said she would go on to win a softball city championship (playing shortstop and batting leadoff, no less). She said the free access to local parks helped her brother, Randy Moffitt, make it to the Major League (albeit on the wrong team, the Dodgers' rival San Francisco Giants). "That's what these fields do for these kids," King said before thanking the Dodger family. "It's not what you get in life, it's what you give."
Kloss, meanwhile, remarked that she was proud of her lifelong commitment to ensuring people of all kinds have a seat and voice at the table and singled out the L.A. Dodgers Foundation for helping to ensure that every Angeleno kid has access to the same.
Mars then took the stage for an energetic performance that had Dodgers players past and present — including super-utility player Kiké Hernandez and newly inducted Dodger Legend Steve Garvey — dancing and snapping photos and video. Pitching sensation Walker Buehler had a steady stream well-wishers impressed with the young ace, while rookie Alex Verdugo made the rounds and shook hands as he enjoyed his status as a fan favorite.
L.A. Dodgers Foundation CEO Nichol Whiteman noted the organization has already had a positive impact on more than 2.6 million children — last year alone. Meanwhile, Dodgers RBI has served nearly 10,000 children across 69 locations on more than 700 teams across L.A., including three public housing developments. More than 300,000 kids have access to the 50 Dodger Dreamfields.
"[The Dodgers] know how to build champions on the field and off," Whiteman said.
Mars, meanwhile, closed out the night with songs including "24 Karat Magic" and "Treasure" in a nearly hourlong set. (Previous L.A. Dodgers Foundation Blue Diamond Gala performers have included Maroon 5, John Legend and Earth, Wind & Fire.)
Notable attendees included Anthony Anderson; Mario Lopez; Shawne Merriman; American Ninja Warrior favorites Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila; Dodger favorites Ron Cey and Fernando Valenzuela; and current players Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Chris Tayler, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Austin Barnes and Corey Seager, the latter of whom pulled a hamstring during Tuesday's Freeway Series game against the Los Angeles Angels and could be placed on the Injured List pending the results of an MRI.