Yesterday, in the shadows of the Green Monster, I attended the launch party for Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett's charity wines. The event was held at the exclusive Foundation Room at the House of Blues. Ellsbury and Beckett are the latest athletes to launch their wines "ZinfandEllsbury" and "Chardon-K" under the Longball Cellars brand.
NESN personality Heidi Watney emceed the event which was attended by Ellsbury. Beckett was supposed to be there but he's been "whining" about a tweaked back and had to focus on treatment in hopes he won't miss his next start (Get it? "whining"). Watney said the back problem stemmed from Beckett having to take batting practice in order to prepare for inter-league play later this month.
"With my new contract here in Boston, it is going to give me the chance to pursue even more opportunities to help the children in New England with my Foundation. These opportunities would not be possible if it were not for the dedication and hard work from companies like Charity Hop who also give back to our charities."1oo% of proceeds from sales of Beckett's wine will go to the Josh Beckett Foundation, which supports community-based programs that strive to improve the health and well-being of children, especially those who are seriously ill, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged.
One example of how this charity has helped local kids is the Josh Beckett Treatment Room at Children's Hospital. Located in their Oncology department it's a room where sick kids can go in and focus on the cheerful Fenway Park imagery instead of drab walls. Once their treatment is done they leave with a Beckett baseball card and a picture.
Oberle also announced that Jason Aldean will be performing this July after Josh Beckett's Charity Bowl celebration, Beckett Bowl. I love that they're bringing this country star to Boston and hope I'm able to attend the event.
Next up was Andrew Graff. Graff started Charity Wines with the goal of finding athletes and celebrities, and matching them with fine wines to raise funds for the charities of their choice.
I was really hoping for the opportunity to speak with Graff, as he is a businessman I have looked up to for a long time. It has always been my hope to work for a non-profit or charity organization, while being able to support my family. Graff has found a way to combine that with sports and I really can't imagine anything better. Unfortunately it was not in the cards for me to meet him yesterday, but I was grateful to be able to hear him speak.
Shannon Albert, President of the Navajo Relief Fund spoke a little bit about the Navajo people. They represent the largest reservation in the United States and still take part in traditional activities such as basket weaving, rug making, harvest dance and silver making. What most people don't realize is the difficulty in the day-to-day conditions the Navajos face.
The current unemployment rate on the reservation is between 40%-50% and over 300,000 Navajos live below the poverty level. Nearly half of the high school students are drop-outs and teen suicide is well above the national average.
In her sincere thanks to Ellsbury (whose grandmother and mother are full Navajo) she presented him with a beautiful silver and turquoise bracelet which Ellsbury said reminded him of his grandmother.
He mentioned how it took him a while to choose the charities who would benefit from wine sales. So difficult was it, he couldn't choose just one but was able to narrow it down to three charities which he said are "all near and dear" to his heart.
I already mentioned the first one, The Navajo Relief Fund helps Native Americans improve their quality of life by providing opportunities for them to bring about positive changes in their own communities.
The second is Project Bread. Executive Director Ellen Parker was on hand to talk about the leading anti-hunger organization, and how the money earned from sales of Ellsbury's wine will go to in-school programs to ensure kids from low-income families will be fed nutritious breakfast and lunches during school.
Ellsbury talked a little bit about his number change from 46 back to his preferred 2 (He did mention 46 served him well in 2007 when the Sox won the World Series. Watney joked maybe he should switch back), his hopeful return to baseball "soon" and joked how his wine tasted better and had a better name than Beckett's.
He was so gracious posing for pictures, signing autographs and talking to his fans.
If you're a faithful reader of my blog, you know I'm a big fan of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Ellsbury played for the Cape League in 2004 for the Falmouth Commodores (*side note: The Commodores lost the championship to the Y-D Red Sox, my home-town team!). It's hard to believe he wasn't the heart-throb back then that he is now.
That's not to say he wasn't adorable, but he wasn't the guy on the team all of the girls swooned over, like he is now.
Speaking of swooning girls...Ellsbury's long-time girlfriend Kelsey Hawkins was at the event. Despite rumors that have been swirling around lately Hawkins wasn't sporting a ring on her left-hand.
OK, back to the serious stuff.
I need to thank Brett Rudy from Charity Hop for inviting me to this wonderful event! The wines are now available for around $14 in local establishments, as well as online.
for using their status as a professional athlete to help those in need.