ORLANDO, Fla. -- Davey Johnson has been to more than his fair share of charity events over the years. But the longtime manager had never hosted one of his own until this weekend, when he found a cause close to his heart and decided to put a plan into motion.
The Nationals manager and his wife, Susan, hosted the First Annual Davey Johnson Celebrity Invitational, benefiting Lighthouse Central Florida, at Rosen Shingle Creek and Shingle Creek Golf Club on Friday and Saturday. Lighthouse is a private, non-profit organization involved with people living with blindness or a loss of vision.
The Johnson family lost their son, Jake Allen, last May at the age of 34 due to infection and pneumonia. Jake was born with hearing and visual impairments and passed away in an Orlando hospital. Johnson's family requested contributions to Lighthouse Central Florida upon his passing and continued to support the organization.
"I've never ever wanted to impose on anybody, but this cause was so important to us and to a lot of families," Johnson said Saturday morning. "Lighthouse was so instrumental in his early years and helpful to Susan. We just felt like they meant so much to us, we need to do something to give something back. My wife has worked very hard all during the year, and a lot of my friends really spent their time to support this cause."
The event began Friday with an All-Star Celebrity Pairing Party, including a silent auction, and continued Saturday with brunch, the golf tournament itself and a "19th Hole Celebrity Party." Among those in attendance were Bryce Harper and his brother, Bryan, a pitching prospect in Washington's organization, Rick and David Eckstein, Rick Ankiel, Maury Povich, Barry Larkin, Gary Sheffield, Brooks Robinson, Justin Verlander and Adam LaRoche.
LaRoche was in a particularly interesting situation, as he's currently a free agent locked in contract negotiations with the Nationals and seldom leaves his ranch in Kansas during the offseason. But as soon as his wife told him about Johnson's invitation to attend the fundraiser, LaRoche was in.
"This was an easy one. I didn't even know the date, and I said we've got to make it work," LaRoche said. "This was a no-brainer, if for no other reason than that I just love Davey and I respect him. I love playing for him. Before he was manager, I had the pleasure of golfing with him a couple times. I always enjoyed being around him. He's the kind of guy that will go out of his way to do anything for you. He's got a great heart. When he invited me, I was going to take advantage of it."
Johnson clearly appreciated the attendance and support from his friends, proudly discussing how well things seemed to be going, soaking in the atmosphere and talking with everyone who came up to greet him.
"They did a lot of work putting together all the packages. They've donated a lot of very nice things," Johnson said. "Ballplayers and athletes have gone overboard contributing and making it very successful.
"I know that Jakey boy is proud."