D-backs raise $1.6M for charity during Evening on the Diamond

PHOENIX -- Come Monday, the 2015 season will begin at Chase Field, with the D-backs taking on the World Series champion Giants.

Thursday night, however, the infield was dotted with tables, a stage sat in center field and the area down left-field line was packed with tables of sports memorabilia, as the D-backs celebrated their Ninth Annual Evening on the Diamond.

The event, which featured both a silent and live auction, as well as a live performance by country music star Lee Brice, serves as the organization's main fundraiser each year for the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation.

This year, more than $1.6 million was raised.

"This is where we raise the majority of our money that we then use throughout the year in our charitable programs," D-backs team president and CEO Derrick Hall said.

And there are a lot of charitable programs from an organization that believes giving back to the community is one of its chief missions.

"At each Evening on the Diamond, we introduce a new program that receives its funding from the event itself," Hall said. "This year, we're starting Chase Your Dream."

As part of "Chase Your Dream," the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, along with Chase, will provide equipment for 25 local high school baseball and softball programs that have been identified as in need of help.

The Evening on the Diamond is attended by all D-backs players, coaches and broadcasters.

"The guys are having a good time," outfielder A.J. Pollock said. "It's the first time that we get to see the ballpark with the grass on the field. It's just a good night. These are a lot of fun. Obviously the main thing is the money that gets raised, and they do so many good things with that money."

As was the case in 2014, guests were requested to wear western attire. Last year, country music star Jake Owen was the featured performer. Previous performers included well-known bands like Chicago and The Beach Boys, as well as singer Natalie Cole and comedian Jay Leno.

"We saw last year Jake Owen was a big hit, and our players seemed to really like the country theme, so we went with it again," Hall said.

Indeed, native Texans like pitcher Chase Anderson and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt looked quite comfortable wearing jeans and cowboy hats.

"I'm from Texas, so this is perfect for me," Anderson said. "I feel like I'm right at home … in Texas."

Silent auction items ran the gamut from Derek Jeter game-used pants to a Tom Brady autographed New England Patriots helmet.

"I think is one of the greatest events I've been to, and I've been to a lot of different charity and auction events," said former D-backs pitcher J.J. Putz, who, along with his wife Kelsey, served as honorary chairs of the event. "We've got a lot of guys on the team that really enjoy the memorabilia that is up for auction."

The live auction, hosted by Hall, featured unique experiences such as being Tony La Russa's guest for this year's Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, a road trip with the D-backs, a trip to the wine countries in Chile and Argentina, an eight-day journey through Japan and a seven-day trip through Ireland.

"We've become known for the trips that we auction off," Hall said. "Our silent auction and live auctions are better than any other across the country, not just in Arizona."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.