This past week, Dirk Nowitzki became likely the tallest player on any pro baseball field in the U.S., when he hosted the Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game in front of a 10,000-plus, sold-out crowd at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas. The event has been going on for 16 years, and the Mavericks star has been taking the lead on it for the past six.
“It’s been basically growing every year,” said Nowitzki, whose team came away with a 5-3 win. “Thanks to the fans for showing up and the celebs. Some are flying in every year to be here and support, and it means a lot. I say it every year, but we don’t take it for granted.”
— HeroesBaseball (@HeroesCelebrity) June 26, 2017
The game benefits the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation, helping underprivileged children with their education, health and well-being, and the Heroes Foundation, bringing sports training and competition to children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Through the years, the event has raised $4 million and has garnered participation from various Dallas-area athletes and celebrities. Among the local NBA names this year were Nowitzki’s running mates Harrison Barnes, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell and Devin Harris, head coach Rick Carlisle and former teammate Brian Cardinal.
— Dallas Mavericks (@dallasmavs) June 24, 2017
Warriors champion Zaza Pachulia, also Nowitzki’s former Mavericks teammate, participated in the game as well. In an article from the Dallas News, Nowitzki said the two of them remain close and Pachulia expressed his willingness to support his friend.
“I missed all his charity events last summer and I told him I’d be there for him at the first opportunity,” he said.
Growing up in Germany, Nowitzki didn’t play much baseball, but despite his lack of experience in the sport, he has come to enjoy the experience.
“I knew the event was always successful back when [former Dallas Stars star] Mike Modano was the face of it. And when they asked me to take it over, I said sure,” he said. “The Heroes Charity and my foundation benefit a great deal from this event and it is fun to put on a show at the same time. It has always been so well supported by the community. It is always one of my favorite nights of the year.”
The game has become the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation’s most well-known event in the summer, but it’s just one project the future Hall of Famer has to give back to the Dallas community. In Sept. 2016, he established his annual Pro Celebrity Tennis Classic at Southern Methodist University, which featured ATP professionals, NBA players and movie stars. In fact, his first passion as a youth was tennis.
Aside from big events, Nowitzki has spent more than a decade assisting children’s hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. During the holiday season, he asks for the wish lists of different patients, purchases their gifts and then delivers them right to the kids.
With such efforts, Nowitzki has proven his commitment to the community he’s called home for nearly 20 years, and his professional peers in Dallas have noticed it, too.
“Why did I want to play in this game? Dirk Nowitzki, simple as that,” said Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. “Everything he’s done for his career and for the city of Dallas, it’s humbling and it’s about following guys like that.”