Puig hosts charity poker tournament at stadium

Several of outfielder's teammates and other celebrities were in attendance

Puig hosts charity poker tournament at stadium

LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig and several of his teammates spent a rare off-day in the Dodgers' 162-game schedule Monday giving back to the community for the inaugural Wild Horse Poker Tournament at Dodger Stadium.

The sold out Texas Hold'em tournament, hosted by Puig in the ballpark's Stadium Club, benefited the outfielder's Wild Horse Foundation and drew a number of current Dodgers players -- including Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley and Brandon McCarthy -- as well as some former players who once wore Dodger blue, including Don Newcombe, Orel Hershiser, Manny Mota, Jerry Hairston and Paul Lo Duca.

"I want to say thank you to my teammates, and I'm going to be a better teammate to you guys," joked Puig.

"It's very difficult to ask somebody who plays 162 games to do this on an off-day," said George Lopez, the tournament's emcee. "So you know that it's inspired by the fact that they want to help, because there's no way that you can fake your way through this."

The Wild Horse Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed to help underprivileged children and families both locally and in the Dominican Republic. In addition to Monday's poker tournament, Puig's first major charity event in Los Angeles since establishing his foundation, its programming efforts include food drives and donations of athletic equipment and supplies to youth leagues, community centers and schools in need.

"I wanted to do this event for the kids, because when I was a little bit younger, 8 or 9 years old, I know how hard it is [to get] the stuff -- baseball, bat, glove -- to go play baseball," Puig said. "I'd be asking my friends, 'Hey, can I use your glove?' I want to give to the kids baseball supplies and school supplies, too. ... [Making] life more easy for the families and the kids."

Puig's event also drew several celebrities outside of baseball circles, including Lopez, TV and radio personality Larry King, former Lakers forwards Metta World Peace and A.C. Green, L.A. Kings center Tyler Toffoli, former "The Bachelor" contestant Ben Higgins, comedian Jon Lovitz, actor Benito Martinez and 2006 World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold.

"My personal belief is when you are given more, that just means you have more to give back," Higgins said. "That's why you see these players really use their platform for good, because they've been given so much and it's time for them to give back to the community or to people who need it most."

Puig is one of several Dodgers players with charitable foundations who put on fundraising events throughout the year. Kershaw has a celebrity ping pong tournament that is nearing its fifth event in July, Turner hosts an annual golf fundraiser and Gonzalez puts on a yearly charity softball game at Dodger Stadium, among others.

"It's nice to see everybody getting on board and wanting to make an impact in the community," said Turner. "Maybe we'll have some miniature golf, some bowling. Who knows what's next."

With the Dodgers supporting numerous causes via their own personal foundations and several more charitable efforts spearheaded by the club, the organization maintains a strong presence in the Los Angeles-area community.

"I think we've got a lot of guys with status and we're known around the game," McCarthy said. "They get a chance to put themselves toward something that can make a difference. It says a lot about the quality of guys that we have that they're willing to step outside themselves and do it."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.