Jon Lester & Clay Buchholz Come Together for Charity
It was a rough 24 hours for the Boston Red Sox, losing a marathon contest against the Angels and then turning around and getting crushed in the series-ending matinee on Thursday. Once Thursday’s game ended, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz shifted into charity mode, putting baseball aside for a night of celebration. For the past 4 years, Red Sox players have participated in a charity wines program designed to raise money for their charity of choice. Last night, at the House of Blues across from Fenway Park, Lester and Buchholz released their own labels of charity wine, the CabernAce and the ChardonClay. The evening was a special event to honor the commitment these two players have to giving back to the community, along with a chance to drink a little wine. I was lucky enough to attend this wonderful evening and get some one-on-one time to chat with both Heidi Watney and Jon Lester.
The evening began with a wine tasting. Everyone was able to sample the two new releases that were produced by the acclaimed Selby Winery located in Healdsburg, CA. Both wines were delicious, but being a red wine person, and specifically a Cabernet fan, Lester’s CabernAce was my personal favorite. The real stars of the show, however, were the two charities that benefit from this amazing campaign. Buchholz’s wine proceeds will benefit the Jimmy Fund, an organization he has been heavily involved in over the past few years, and Lester’s wine proceeds will benefit the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a place near and dear to his heart, where he was treated for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2006. The bottles are expected to cost $14 and 100% of the proceeds go to the charities named above, which is an incredible fundraising campaign. They will be widely available across Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Prior to the formal part of the program, I was able to chat with Heidi Watney for a few minutes about her connection to charity work. She fondly recalled a story from spring training this year, when her boss gave her the day off (the Red Sox were on the road) so she could hang back in Fort Myers and play baseball with some of the Jimmy Fund kids that were visiting. She recalled, “I got to play baseball with the kids in spring training, which was fun. I was the pinch-runner for everybody, so I was just running laps around the bases, it was fun.” The Jimmy Fund has a special connection to the Red Sox, because they have had a charity partnership for over 50 years now. That partnership has an impact on everyone involved. When speaking with Heidi, her face lights up when thinking about the Jimmy Fund kids she has met over the past few years. “We all know and love the Jimmy Fund. I love those kids just like they’re my own.”
The formal program began with remarks from Bob Dougherty, the Director at the House of Blues. Andrew Graff, president of Charity Wines then provided background on his company and all they do for great causes. Suzanne Fountain, Director of the Jimmy Fund, and Michael Rubin with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, both presented what they are doing to help fight cancer, which was inspiring. Then, NESN’s own Heidi Watney led a Q&A session with Lester and Buchholz, followed by some audience questions. Following the audience questions, I was afforded the opportunity to ask Jon Lester two questions in a brief one-on-one interview.
After mentioning earlier in the program about the pressures of starting off slow this season, Lester said that he feels once the club reaches .500, a weight will lift off of their shoulders. He went on to say, “Since our 2-10 start, I think we have the 2nd best record in baseball. So we are playing good baseball, we just put ourselves in such a hole, that it is taking us a while to get out of it. I think once we get to that point, hopefully everything will just go right over that hill and we will take off from there.” Moving on from the topic of the team’s record, I asked Jon about his impressions of the two new major additions to the club this off-season, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, now that they have been teammates for a few months. He focused on Crawford, saying that his impressions were “…a lot different than I thought playing against him. I thought he was a different guy than he was, he’s a real good guy, real good teammate, obviously a guy we want on our side. He’s kind of gotten off to a bad start, but I think everything will be fine with him, he has been playing good baseball here recently, and hopefully we can just keep going.”
The whole night was a great way to mingle and chat with other writers and reporters from across Red Sox nation. Getting the opportunity to interview Heidi and Jon was a thrill for me and seeing their passion and desire to give back and help wherever possible is refreshing, to say the least. They clearly wanted to be there and involved with this fundraising campaign, it wasn’t just another charity notch off their belt that they were required to complete. Both Lester and Buchholz have young babies, and seeing them there with their wives and, in Buchholz’s case, his baby, was an incredible thing to witness. Watching Buchholz stand at the side of the room holding his baby girl with his wife by his side while other speakers were presenting was an amazingly wonderful sight. Having a family has clearly positively affected their lives and for a moment or two, it was nice to see these superstar players as normal, family-oriented guys.
Overall, the focus of the evening was on fundraising for two incredible charities. The Jimmy Fund and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center are working day in and day out to prevent, treat, and find a cure for cancer, while improving the quality of life for their patients. My hat goes off to their ground-breaking work. Next time you want to pick-up a bottle of wine with dinner, or you want to bring a bottle of wine to a friend’s house, why not pick up a $14 bottle of CabernAce or ChardonClay and help support cancer research while you’re at it? I know I will.
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