Blue Jays host annual Curve Ball Gala

Blue Jays host annual Curve Ball Gala

TORONTO -- The Rogers Centre was transformed on Thursday night as the annual Curve Ball Gala was held in support of the Jays Care Foundation. Blue Jays players and coaches were on hand as fans, supporters and sponsors came together to raise money for Canadian youths in need.

Jays Care works to use the game of baseball as a tool that helps young people learn life skills and create lasting social change away from the diamond. For many Blue Jays in attendance, the work done by Jays Care also helps put into perspective their own role in the community.

"It's a really nice reminder of the responsibility we have every year, every day, when we get to do this," said Toronto pitcher Joe Biagini. "You have a platform and you have an ability to influence people. You have an ability to make a difference with all the resources that come with this."

After raising $1.24 million in 2016, this year's Curve Ball Gala grew even further by raising approximately $1.5 million.

"What are you going to do?" Biagini continued. "If you're going to play for yourself or for your career and try to make a bunch of money and be respected and successful, that only goes to you. It doesn't really expand any farther from that."

Attendees were able to bid on select auction packages that included a private trip for six to see the Blue Jays play at Wrigley Field in August, a sprawling display of autographed sports memorabilia and even a chance to hang out with Biagini 1,465 feet above the ground in Toronto's CN Tower.

The money raised will be part of over $6.2 million invested by Jays Care in 2017 that will go to directly impact the lives of 65,000 young Canadians in all 10 provinces and the Yukon Territory.

"Tonight, we stand together," said Melinda Rogers, Curve Ball Co-Chair and Jays Care Foundation Board Chair. "United together so that these children can pursue their dreams and create a future for our incredible country that only they can imagine."

As the Jays Care Foundation has grown and developed since being established in 1992, so has their approach. Beyond the Rookie League, their signature baseball for development program, Jays Care continues to lead and contribute heavily to a growing number of baseball programs that positively impact a wide variety of demographics and communities.

"There are a troubling number of children who are denied the chance to participate in sports and denied the chance to learn and play," said Joe Natale, President and CEO of Rogers Communications, which owns the Blue Jays. "Jays Care tackles this problem head on. Through Jays Care, we help children build life skills that can make or break their future. The work being done is very important in developing the potential of young people, our leaders of tomorrow. It truly warms the heart."

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.