Another sellout crowd helps Nowitzki’s celebrity baseball game become a smashing success again

2018 Dirk’s Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game

Another amazing year in the books. Thanks to everyone who came out!

FRISCO – As he gingerly strolled down the stands along the third base line Friday night while patiently signing one autograph after another, everything seemed so surreal to Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.

Reflecting on his 2018 Heroes Celebrity Baseball game that brought out everyone from Dallas Cowboys superstars Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to Mavs owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle to former Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Von Miller, Nowitzki took a little time to soak it all in after his White Sox team dropped a 13-7 decision to the Blue Sox at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

“It’s humbling how this game — really a bad baseball game — is part of the community now here in Frisco and Dallas,” Nowitzki told in an exclusive interview. “It’s amazing the support from the celebs taking time out of their busy schedule, and the fans coming out and giving their hard-earned money to our charities.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with another great turnout. Unfortunately, the White Sox lost. There was a bad inning when I was actually sitting out and the guys couldn’t stop the bleeding, so that was tough.”

Nowitzki didn’t play as much in the game as he wanted to. Surgery on his left ankle back on Apr. 5 limited his mobility.

However, Nowitzki did play some at first base. And he also got to swing the bat a few times for the White Sox.

“I couldn’t really run, and I haven’t really run yet,” Nowitzki said. “I think that’s coming later in the summer, so unfortunately I was a little slow out there.

“But I had a good little hit and (Cowboys defensive back) Byron Jones ran for me. It was amazing, because he’s so fast, so he made up for my lack of speed.”

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Nowitzki playfully dissected the (baseball) game of some of his Mavs teammates. And as expected, he didn’t hold back.

“Dwight (Powell) disappointed me a little bit,” Nowitzki said while smiling. “He hit a homerun (Thursday in batting practice).

“Wesley (Matthews) disappointed me. He might be traded next year – back to the Blue team.”

Matthews tossed the bat in the air once after striking out.

Powell, who was the MVP of this charity game two years ago, took the good-natured ribbing from Nowitzki in stride. Well, sort of.

Told that Nowitzki was disappointed in him and thought he was going to hit a home run in Friday’s game, Powell deadpanned: “He was misguided, to say the least.”

Nowitzki was impressed with Mavs forward Maxi Kleber, whose baseball skills were challenging, yet he performed admirably before the sellout crowd.

“Maxi hit an unbelievable triple in his first game ever, so I’m proud of him,” Nowitzki said. “And (ex-Mavs guard) Devin (Harris) was solid. He got some hits, he’s got the speed and he’s a good leadoff hitter.”

Former Cowboys defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware was named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his stellar play at the plate and in the field.

“I hate losing, so I hated giving the MVP away, but he’s the man,” Nowitzki said. “He crushed the ball and he made some incredible plays.

“He played (baseball) a bit growing up, so it definitely showed.”

Of course, the players and celebrities all gathered Friday night to raise money that will benefit the children’s charities of the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and the Heroes Foundation. In the 17 years this game has occurred – the last seven years were hosted by Nowitzki — over $4 million has been raised for various children’s charities.

“It’s a great event,” Powell said. “Any time you can get out and get this kind of support from celebrities and players and get the fans involved, it’s great for the community.

“It’s for a great cause and it’s an honor to be a part of it.”

Like Powell, Mavs rookie center Johnathan Motley also felt honored to have been invited to such a star-studded event that ended with a huge fireworks display. Motley didn’t get any hits, but he did get manage to get on base once.

“I fouled the ball like four or five times,” Motley said. “I couldn’t get one out there, but it’s all good. I got on base one time, so that’s what I was looking for. It was a tip and the catcher didn’t catch it – the ball hit the ground – and I got to run. I got two nice catches, so everything’s good.

“It’s fun being around all these guys, all these great athletes. It’s supporting a good cause, so I’m just thankful to be a part of it.”

Of course, the somber part of the night occurred when three students from Santa Fe High School were introduced to the crowd and were part of the ceremonial first pitch. Santa Fe baseball players Rome Shubert and Trent Beazley along with basketball player Noah Silva were invited to the game by Cuban.

A lone gunman killed eight students and two teachers and injured many others on May 18 during a shooting rampage at Santa Fe High School. Shubert, who was shot in the back of the head, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday and Beazley — he was shot in his ribs — was behind home plate to catch the baseball. Silva, who was shot in the leg during the incident, is in a wheelchair.

“We wanted to really show our appreciation for how much we care for the kids from Santa Fe, so we flew them in,” Cuban said during a press conference before the game. “I know it’s been a rough patch for you guys.

“But hopefully we can have some fun together and really enjoy, and you guys get to hang with these guys and show them who the real stars are.”

The crowd gave the Santa Fe players a loud standing ovation, which tugged at Nowitzki’s heartstrings.

“I talked to them a little bit after the press conference,” Nowitzki said. “It’s heartbreaking, (school shootings are) happening unfortunately. Hopefully we can address that so this doesn’t keep happening.”

Nowitzki took some keepsake photos with the Santa Fe players and was thankful they were able to attend a game that’s so dear to his heart.

“They had some fun tonight and we got them thinking about some other stuff other than what happened (on May 18),” Nowitzki said. “I’m sure physically and mentally they went through a lot.

“Hopefully this helped them out and brought some joy in their life.”

Although he hasn’t decided whether next season with the Mavs – his 21st year — will be his last one before he retires, Nowitzki said he thinks he’ll be back to host this celebrity baseball game again next year. Just like his legendary career in the National Basketball Association, this charity baseball game has been so uplifting to Nowitzki, who turns 40 on June 19.

“Obviously, (former Dallas Stars superstar) Mike Modano started this thing and then we took it to another level,” Nowitzki said. “The organizing team is amazing.

“Obviously they’ve been doing it for 17 years. It’s just a super world-class event, it’s super well managed and super people show up and support it, so it’s great.”