L to R (front row): Tim Mead, Maury Wills, Dennis Zine, Randy Wolf; (back row): Ellis Valentine, James Lofton, Derrel Thomas, Jim Dantona, Joe Pierre(UFCW), Jeff Suppan; not pictured: George L. Hartwell, Allan Zimmerman (click to enlarge)


Maury Wills Leads Team of Ten Honorees

UNIVERSAL CITY, CA - A standing room only crowd filled the scenic Roof Garden of the Sheraton Universal Hotel as Dodger legend Maury Wills headlined a star-studded lineup of baseball stars and political and community leaders for our annual Positive Image Awards and auction. Sportscasters Eric Tracy and Joe Buttitta presided over the gala event that offered up a record 10 different Positive Image Awards. 20 former and current Major League Baseball players joined an enthusiastic crowd of over 300 BAD faithful to honor this year’s impressive cast of honorees.

Maury Wills was nothing short of inspirational as he accepted the 2002 Ernie Banks Positive Image Lifetime Achievement Award. He spoke in detail about his life before, during and after baseball. It’s a life that soared to spectacular heights as one of the most memorable Los Angeles Dodgers of all time, and crashed to unthinkable lows as he battled to recover from a substance abuse addiction that nearly cost him his life. Not a sound could be heard as an awe-struck audience listened intently to his every sincere word. Make no mistake, Maury Wills is back in a big way and is a great driving force for young people all across the country.

Former Major League stars Ellis Valentine and Derrel Thomas, for whom Maury’s path-blazing career helped pave the way for their own success, were honored with our Comeback Player of the Year Awards. Both veterans have been dedicated mainstays at BAD clinics for the last 5 years and both have rebuilt their post-baseball lives in ways that deserved recognition. Baseballers Against Drugs has been very fortunate to have these two men on our side for so long.

Two Major League pitching stars walked away with Positive Image in Sports honors. Kansas City Royals ace Jeff Suppan and Philadelphia Phillies southpaw Randy Wolf first joined BAD as guests at our 2000 award ceremony. Only 2 years later and it was now their turn to accept the honor. Both are local Southern California products and both were instrumental in helping us work with the Royals and Phillies last summer.

The Maury Wills inspiration shined brightly when Boston Red Sox rookie James Lofton accepted as Promising Star of the Future. You see, Derrel Thomas idolized Maury Wills and cites him as the reason he focused on baseball. James’ slow but steady rise to the Major Leagues last year was testimony to the patient mentoring of Derrel, who took James under his own wing, redirecting him away from gang life and towards baseball.

Comedian, and Friend of BAD, Henry Cho

BAD’s affiliation with the Anaheim Angels was heralded when Vice President of Communications Tim Mead was honored with one of our three Action in the Community Awards. Also at the forefront of community leadership and accepting awards for being were George L. Hartwell, President of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1036, and Southern California Permanente Medical Group Laboratories with Managing Director Allan Zimmerman at the helm.

No Positive Image Award ceremony is complete without recognizing a government leader and this year was no exception. Los Angeles City Council Member Dennis Zine took home the Action in Government Award for his leadership and community service dedication to his district.

Ten honorees and still the evening proved much more than simply a series of acceptance speeches. This year’s gala included another top-rate dinner, silent auction, exciting raffle and one other very special touch. Long-time friend and comedian Henry Cho, who entertained at BAD’s inaugural event, rejoined us and proved he has only gotten funnier since 1990. The crowd may have been silenced by Maury Wills’ most moving speech, but the laughter induced by Henry could be heard in the Universal Studio theme park below. As Henry himself would say, "Bless his heart!"

P.O. Box 1438 Simi Valley, CA 93062 | 805-583-1439 | homerun@bad.org