Don Mattingly wanted to wear his lapel pin commemorating the late Jose Fernandez again Wednesday.
He hadn’t put on the circular, black pin with Fernandez’s No. 16 since attending his Marlins pitcher’s funeral two months ago. He felt the second “An Intimate Evening With Friends” Mattingly Charities fundraising event seemed like the proper occasion to honor Fernandez.
After all, Fernandez’s always-enthusiastic attitude embodied what Mattingly’s charitable efforts are about — giving back to underprivileged youth through programs that support baseball.
“Jose touched a lot of people’s hearts but he was a little kid at heart,” Mattingly said inside the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science.
Mattingly focused on the kids who will benefit from the money raised whenever he’d get stressed planning the night’s logistics. He wants to make a difference.
In the past year, he and his wife Lori donated $25,000 to Challenger Baseball League and launched the Mattingly Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. He said those initiatives are only laying the foundation.
“Lori and I, our hearts are with the youth and the kids who have been underserved and underprivileged and we’re trying to stay in those areas,” he said. “But we want to obviously add on to this past year.”
Hall of Fame manager and four-time World Series champion Joe Torre was their special guest. He joked that he would’ve attended last year’s inaugural event but Mattingly said not to come because he already booked Los Angeles Angels All-Star Albert Pujols, Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter and country music star Toby Keith.
“I’m not here because he supports my foundation, I’m here because it’s an important cause and Donnie is a special individual,” Torre said. “We got close during the Yankee years and he has been so passionate about young people.”
Torre explained that whether MLB players like it or not, they’re role models to children and it’s their responsibility to set a good example, especially for those who are disadvantaged.
“They’re at a point in their lives where they could go astray or they could go in the direction that’s going to be a lot healthier,” Torre said. “We need to make them feel important and that they’re going to be part of the solution.”
Nashville country recording artists and famed songwriters The Warren Brothers played several songs during the sold-out event attended by 200 people. VIP tickets were $300 and general admission tickets were $150, while live and silent auctions also took place. The Warren Brothers opened with a song they wrote for Kieth, “Red Solo Cup.”
“Any chance we can do something to give back is great,” Brett Warren said. “We’re really glad to be here and we’re so thankful for Don calling us up and asking us to come do this.”
A father of four boys, Mattingly knows children need to learn baseball early because it’s tough to develop the skills late. Of course, he first wants to help, but it’s certainly a bonus if his help boosts inner-city kids’ interest in the game.
“One of the things I noticed with my boys playing is there were very few African-American kids playing,” Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of giving them access to it. If they don’t want to play, that’s fine. But you have to have access.”