It may be the heart of baseball’s offseason, but Southern University coach Roger Cador was still hard at work, this time making an impact off the diamond with the Seventh Annual Bringing Back Baseball Gala.
The event, held Wednesday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, included dinner, drinks and a silent auction all in an effort to raise money benefitting the Bringing Back Baseball Initiative, which aims to increase interest in the game of baseball from the inner cities to the suburbs.
The fundraiser focuses on shrinking African-American participation in baseball, and the money raised goes to the Baton Rouge Little League Baseball and the Southern program.
“It all started with a dream and a hope,” said Cador, who teamed up with Geoff Hixson, the COO of the MLB Alumni Association, and former player Billy North to start the event after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. “It’s a lot of effort and hard work and patience and love and support from the community. It couldn’t have happened without the support of the community. They know our kids are very community oriented, and we produce a lot of good kids.”
Several of Cador’s former players and coaches were in attendance Wednesday, as well as current and former big leaguers from the area.
Regulars like David Dellucci, Mike Fontenot, Dan Ford, Terry Fox, Rick Greene, Chuck McElroy, Brian McRae, Desi Relaford, Art Swanson and Trenidad Hubbard showed their support again.
“It’s a good group of guys that attend to spread awareness and to generate funds for inner-city baseball is great,” said Dellucci, a Baton Rouge native and retired MLB veteran. “As a former baseball player, along with these other ball players, we want to see this game thrive. In order for to thrive, it has to be offered to everybody that wants to play. That’s what this event is all about.”
Two of Cador’s more recent players at Southern, Cody Hall, a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization, and Frazier Hall, a catcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks, also attended.
Guest speaker Jimmie Lee Soloman, former MLB’s executive vice president of baseball development, addressed the audience after dinner, speaking about the benefit of increasing the youth’s interest in America’s pastime and thanking Cador and the crowd for their contributions.
The silent auction was decked out with sports memorabilia and other gifts and collectables, from autographed baseballs and framed photos, to fine jewelry and Waterford crystal. The live auction followed, featuring autographed jerseys from baseball legends Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax and Ken Griffey Jr. — each of which sold for at least $800 — to cap off the successful evening of events.
“One thing about coaches, we don’t like to lose or fail,” said Cador, who hand-delivered each ticket to the guests. “Through all of the hard work, when you’re able to pull it off, the night that it happens is the most wonderful thing that could happen.”
Cador’s work certainly doesn’t go unnoticed either. Longtime Southern assistant coach and current MLB scout Arnold Brathwaite has attended the event the past three years,
“If anybody knows Roger Cador, if there’s a way for it to get done, he’ll get it done,” Brathwaite said.
“This is something that he’s very passionate about. Obviously it’s for a good cause, and ultimately it’s to benefit the program and benefit the people of the community.”