A's swing for greens in charity event
Community Fund Golf Classic aids local initiatives
PLEASANTON, Calif. -- Dozens of former Oakland A's greats and a handful of current players and coaches were at the Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton on Thursday afternoon for the club's annual Community Fund Golf Classic.
Union Bank of California was the title sponsor of this charity event, while Chevron, E-Loan, Pepsi and State Roofing Systems of San Leandro were presenting sponsors.
The A's Community Fund supports charitable organizations in improving the quality of life for people throughout the Bay Area. The fund's endeavors span from helping with educational programs all the way to crime and drug prevention and senior welfare.
"These teams are very community aware now, and the A's play a big part," legendary pitcher Vida Blue said. "The fact that there are so many charities that they help, it is really cool.
"Hopefully one of the things they can do is increase the interest for baseball in the black communities."
Blue was joined on the course by A's legends such as Dave Stewart, Dick Green, Bert Campaneris, Dave Henderson and John "Blue Moon" Odom, who relayed how much they enjoy getting to spend time together and doing so for a good cause.
"Anytime I can play in a golf tournament that can benefit anyone else, I am 100 percent behind it," Odom said. "It's great because we probably wouldn't get to see each other as often. It brings us together and once we see each other, we start feeling like we're young again. It brings back all those old memories."
Not only do the friends and former teammates get to see each other again, but they get to spend some time on the links, where guys like Blue Moon hang out quite often. He said he usually hits the course a couple of times a week, and will go out and practice his swing on other days. He estimates his handicap is just below 10.
"I hold my own," Odom said.
The main attraction of the day was the long drive contest, which took place prior to the event. At around 11 a.m., a team of former A's players squared off against a team of current A's players to see who could drive a ball the furthest from the first tee.
Current players Nick Swisher and Chad Gaudin teamed up against Blue and Stewart, who represented the former players.
After a shaky start, Swisher led the current players to victory by driving a ball 289 yards in the final round, edging out Blue by two yards. His reward was a bottle of champagne.
"I felt like I was the favorite going in," Swisher said, joking with the media afterwards. "I'm going to have to pop a little bubbly after the round of golf."
On a serious note, Swisher said: "It was a great time, I got to meet some good guys and it was a lot of fun."
Blue and Stewart looked to be in control early on after Blue's longest drive of his three swings went 280 yards. Swisher and Gaudin, on the other hand, could not get any of their six combined swings to stay in play.
They each got one more swing to make sure the current players would have a representative in the finals and Swisher blasted one 302 yards.
"It was tough coming out here right away without taking any swings," Swisher said.
In the finals, Blue went 281 yards on his first drive and 287 on his next. Swisher's second drive just edged out Blue's, and when the original report came back at 289 yards, A's third-base coach and event MC Rene Lachemann, rooting for the former players, jokingly announced it went 286 yards.
Matt Smith is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.