FRISCO – Before Dirk Nowitzki met the media Thursday morning to promote his annual celebrity baseball game, he first stopped by Dr Pepper Ballpark to have a meet-and-greet and photo opportunity session with several kids with special needs.
That session strikes at the core of Nowitzki’s heart. The Dallas Mavericks’ 14-time All-Star will move heaven and earth when it comes to making sure special needs, disadvantaged or impoverished kids can tip the scales in their favor.
Dirk Nowitzki’s 2019 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game – set for Friday at 7 p.m. at Dr Pepper Ballpark – will benefit the children’s charities of both the Heroes Foundation and the Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. Nowitzki, who is hosting this celebrity baseball game for the eighth straight year, wouldn’t have it any other way.
For Nowitzki, it’s all about the kids first, second. . .and always.
“I think the Heroes Foundation and my foundation have been doing great, great work thanks to obviously the support from the fans to come out, and we’re able to support kids that need it,” Nowitzki said. “We’re able to give them a chance.
“These kids are part of the Suit Program where they get a suit, they get a job interview. So, it’s just giving kids a chance in life. My thanks to everybody that is involved here and makes this possible for us to keep supporting the community.”
Nowitzki wanted to remind his listeners that because of the power pro athletes have and their status as a role model, it is imperative that they get involved in their communities and do what they can to help others who are less fortunate. And that especially includes bending over backwards to help disadvantaged kids.
“I think some of us are really, really lucky,” Nowitzki said. “We’re very, very fortunate in the situation that we’re in, especially (pro) athletes.
“We get paid a lot of money to really do a hobby, so I think it’s our responsibility to help others in the community the way the community supports us every night. So, I think it’s our responsibility to help out wherever we can, and I think usually all teams do a great job with events — whether it’s around the holidays or in the summer — to support those in need. It’s always special.”
It’s also special to Nowitzki that Mavs players Dwight Powell, Devin Harris, Jalen Brunson, Dorian Finney-Smith, Justin Jackson and Courtney Lee will participate in Friday’s game. Proprietor Mark Cuban is also playing, while guard J. J. Barea will be the manager for the Blue Sox.
In addition, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and several other members of the Cowboys are playing in the celebrity game, as well as ex-Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and former Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant.
“Obviously they’ve supported everything I’ve done and I’m super, super thankful to the Cowboys who support this event the way they have,” Nowitzki said. “We’re really cordial with all the guys, and I’m thankful for and appreciate their time.
“They usually make it fun for everybody and they take time out to sign stuff for the fans, so it’s been wonderful to have the Cowboys support this event the way they do.”
Nowitzki, who is a member of the White Sox, even received some good-natured ribbing from players on the Blue Sox when the rosters were announced.
“I heard some guys complain a little bit that I stacked my team this year,” Nowitzki said. “I want to say I had nothing to do with the draft. I was actually out of town the last two weeks.
“I think my team, as of now, we’re the heavy favorites. But in sports anything is possible.”
One thing that Friday’s game will certainly have, Nowitzki said, is a bunch of trash talkers.
“There’s trash talk all the time,” Cuban said. “I missed my first three (batting practice) pitches (on Thursday), and I’ll never live that down even though I (hit) the rest of them.”
A switch-hitter, Cuban said his playing time on Friday will be limited.
“I’ll probably just pinch-hit,” he said. “I scored the winning run last year. Even though it’s the 10-year anniversary of my MVP win and it’s a special moment, these young guys can sit out there for three hours in the sun.
“I’ve learned a little bit in the last 15 years.”
Nowitzki, meanwhile, admits that he’s put on about 20 pounds since he announced his retirement from the NBA after 21 years with the Mavs in April, thanks in large part to an abundance of pizza, ice cream and desserts.
“Dirk is edging for the Hall of the Fame in that category,” Cuban said. “He’s already put up Hall of Fame numbers and I think he’ll show the stamina and the stability to be able to eat ice cream for the next 30 years.
“Probably the happiest man in Dallas right now is the guy who makes Dirk’s suits these days, because he’s getting an upgrade.”
Nowitzki also is contemplating whether to continue hosting this celebrity baseball game, which, at it’s conclusion, will end with a 10-minute fireworks display. As of Thursday morning, there were only 160 tickets – on the grass – remaining for Friday’s game.
“After I announced my retirement or whatever, this event was sold out within the first couple of days,” Nowitzki said. “There sponsors were fantastic, and there are only a few walk-up tickets left on the grass.
“The support from the community has been tremendous, so it’s a no-brainer to kind of keep this rolling the way it’s going. It’s a fun event for families, it’s for two charities. But saying all of that, I haven’t really thought about it – if we’re going to keep going. But it’s definitely a special event. It’s kind of already a part of this community and it’s been always fun.”