Fenway benefit brings together pitching's best

Fenway benefit brings together pitching's best

Fenway benefit brings together pitching's best
BOSTON -- The conversation was candid enough for a general manager's office -- or at the least, a clubhouse -- and the speakers were certainly qualified enough to be in either.

The setting on Friday night, though, was the State Street Pavilion Club at Fenway Park, and the listeners who soaked it in totaled 375 as Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, Blue Jays manager John Farrell and player-turned-analyst Curt Schilling picked apart the nature of pitching in the Majors.

"It was fun," Epstein said. "A good time, a lot of great questions, and hopefully we raised a lot of money."

The night was the first of two in the biannual Hot Stove Cool Music benefit, which supports Theo and Paul Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later. A charity concert, organized by Theo Epstein and MLB.com's Peter Gammons for 11 years now, is set for Saturday night at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston.

Moderated by Gammons, the panel was as honest as it was insightful, and perhaps more than one might expect, it was comedic. Bob Tewksbury, Boston's former All-Star and current team psychologist, couldn't help himself from chiming in as Schilling recalled a story about Greg Maddux.

"We were in San Francisco in the '90s, and we flew in to play the Giants, and the Braves were playing a getaway game that day," Schilling started. "And I'm watching ESPN, I'm watching the game and Maddux is pitching ..."

"Dave Martinez?" Tewksbury asked, knowing full well who the batter was.

"Dave Martinez," Schilling confirmed.

"Bases loaded?" Tewksbury interjected, quicker this time and to laughter.

"Bases loaded."

"We'll share the story," Tewksbury joked.

Maddux struck out Martinez on a full count after throwing a 2-2 pitch well off the plate. Separately, both Schilling and Tewksbury later asked Maddux why he missed so badly the pitch before he fanned Martinez.

Maddux said he threw a ball because he knew Martinez would swing on 3-2.

It was a full serving of inside baseball, with former Sox right-hander Bronson Arroyo, current Sox Rich Hill and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, farm director Mike Hazen and conditioning director Mike Reinold also in the conversation. Actor Mike O'Malley, of the TV shows Glee and Parenthood, was the emcee.

"Tonight was extraordinary, it was everything we hoped and even more," said Allyce Najimy, Foundation To Be Named Later's executive director. "Because we just never know. Every year, the panel is better and better. We always think we have the best panel, and then the next year it gets better. Peter's done a really good job focusing the discussion."

Last year's two-night winter event raised $300,000, and the goal this year was $350,000 -- a total Najimy was confident would be reached by the end of Saturday night's show. Musical performers include Arroyo, Gammons' group, Peter Gammons and the Hot Stove All-Stars, and the punk group American Hi-Fi, which originated in Boston.

Since it was founded in 2005, Foundation To Be Named Later has given more than $3.5 million in grants and in-kind donations and it's provided experiences of a lifetime. More than 3,000 children who otherwise wouldn't have the chance have attended Red Sox and Celtics games through the organization.

A year ago, during the 10th anniversary of Hot Stove Cool Music, Gammons was honored with a scholarship in his name, benefiting five Boston public school students with a four-year college scholarship worth $15,000 per year. Another five are to be awarded this year.

"We're very, very grateful," Najimy said. "It takes the whole community to come together to make this event happen."

Organizations supported by FTBNL include The Home for Little Wanderers, one of New England's largest private not-for-profit family service agencies, as well as West End House Boys and Girls Club and a group called Room To Grow. The latter works to enrich the lives of babies born into poverty.

"People in positions, whether it's athletics or any other, where they've got the ability to affect the lives of others -- it makes anyone who participates in this well-rounded," said Farrell, who despite his new position as manager of a division rival, received a standing ovation from the attendees. "There's very true meaning to the causes that are undertaken."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.