MIAMI -- Baseball players are known for knocking in runs, but a bunch of them were focused on knocking down pins for charity on Saturday night.
Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay hosted the Jon Jay Celebrity Bowling Challenge at Lucky Strike Lanes in Miami Beach to help raise money for Chapman Partnership, the private sector partner of Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, commissioned to site, build, and operate two homeless centers in downtown Miami and Homestead.
"My family has always talked about doing something like this," Jay said. "We've always been involved with charity and helping out -- and in St. Louis, I am involved with stuff. But I've never done my own event. So many things have happened that I have been fortunate for in my life, so I felt like now was the perfect time to get everyone together and get this going."
With so many potential causes to choose from, Jay could have had a hard time choosing one to support. But his family's involvement with Chapman Partnership made the choice easy.
"Jon's family has served meals at our center in the evenings for a long time," said Dan Vincent, executive director of Chapman Partnership. "When Jon talked about wanting to give back to the community, we were very privileged to have him choose Chapman to do it. He's been over to tour and he's been hanging out with our kids, even today. We're just privileged to be the benefiting charity of his first event."
Over 200 people came out to help Jay's Celebrity Bowling Challenge raise an estimated $25,000. All proceeds from the event will help Chapman Partnership provide housing, food, health care, dental care, psychiatric care, job training, case management and child care to 756 men, women and children daily in the greater Miami area.
"We feel that Jon has been really blessed," said Jay's father, Justo. "He always put in his work, and now things have worked out in his life that he should be giving back to others. The Chapman Partnership in downtown needs the help and support. There are people who are living in the streets, and we are helping them get off the streets, find jobs and [have] beds to sleep in. It's not just adults, too, because there are children involved in it. I really feel very proud of Jon for this kind of achievement. It's not enough to be a great baseball player and not have a heart for other people and forget about where he could be. We're very proud of Jon for doing this."
The Celebrity Bowling Challenge was Jay's first charity event, and he called on some of his best friends in baseball to help him raise money for the worthy cause.
Joining Jay on the lanes were over 20 big leaguers -- including Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso, Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia, Nationals pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Drew Storen and first baseman Chris Marrero, Cardinals infielder Tyler Greene, outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Lance Lynn, Phillies outfielder John Mayberry and Orioles prospect Manny Machado. Former Marlins infielder Mike Lowell and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh were also in attendance on Saturday night.
Gonzalez bowled a 176 to help lead his team to the championship, but the newest Nationals pitcher was just happy to support Jay's event.
"Without hesitation, I told Jon I would be here," Gonzalez said. "The first thing I asked was if I could start a team. When he said 'Yes,' I told him I would donate as much as he wanted. It's always a pleasure to give back to those in your hometown. I always like doing stuff like this. I told Jon that I'll be at the next event, too."
Several players in attendance have known Jay since their days on the youth fields in Miami. Arencibia is one of those players who has a lifelong friendship with Jay, and he knew the support for anything Jay put together would be overwhelming.
"Jon Jay is one of the best, most first-class guys you'll ever meet," Arencibia said. "He's one of my best friends in baseball. He's one of the most humble guys, and one of the hardest workers. Any time that he is going to ask for something, you know it's something good. To be able to get together like this, it shows how much respect people have for Jon Jay, and the respect we all have for each other as baseball players. We all want to help each other give back, and it's great that we're all here for this great cause."
Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez was Jay's teammate at the University of Miami, and he did not hesitate to help his friend raise money for those in need.
"Everybody here is happy to support Jay," Sanchez said. "He's a great guy, and he wants to give back to the community. I'd do anything for him. When you come out of UM, you have those lifelong friends. And when they call you, you always go do it. We've always spoken about doing things together, and he's taken the initiative to start this event and pave the way for all of us to come out and help the great cause."
While there was a large collection of big league talent showcasing their bowling skills, Jay said there were several others who were disappointed to learn they would have to miss the event, due to scheduling conflicts.
"There are a lot of other guys who couldn't make it because they had to be somewhere," Jay said. "They were upset that they couldn't make it. But hopefully, this will continue to grow. This is my first one -- and hopefully we can do this for a long time down here.