Yasiel Puig used an off day for the Cincinnati Reds to return to Los Angeles and host the third annual Wild Horse Children’s Foundation Poker Tournament and Gala. The event was held at Dodger Stadium the past two years but shifted to the famed Houdini Estate located in Hollywood Hills.
The location choice coincided with the 100th year of Houdini’s anniversary. With a magic and mystery theme, guests dressed in wardrobe from the 1920s. The night included cigar rollers, tarot readers, a silent auction and for those brave enough, a séance.
Funds raised supported the Wild Horse Foundation’s efforts to continue giving back to the Los Angeles community by way of constructing fields and facilities for local youth to be able to play sports, along with funding health and nutrition programs.
Despite facing a flight in the wee hours of the morning to join Reds as they begin a series against the Chicago Cubs, it was abundantly clear how important it was for Puig to hold his annual event in Los Angeles.
“This is amazing. I want to say thank you to everybody here tonight. I keep doing this for this city because I left a lot of kids and I love to give back to the community,” he told DodgerBlue.com.
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“The last seven years, the city has given me a lot of love and respect. That’s the reason it makes me proud and happy to give back to Los Angeles. I love to help all the kids. I also want to open a complex in San Fernando Valley for baseball, basketball, softball, football, tennis.
“And open a house right there with a new kitchen to make healthy food. Kids can come play any sport they want to and get free food and snacks. All the money I’m raising here tonight will stay in Los Angeles for that program.”
George Lopez, Chuck Liddel, Constance Marie, Holly Robinson Peete and Tyler Toffoli were among the celebrities and professional athletes to support Puig. “What’s great is that just because you trade teams, you don’t trade your friends or people that love you,” Lopez said.
“I met Yasiel when he was a rookie and he and I got along great. It was great for the team when we had him, but that’s baseball. For him to come back and do this in L.A., shows his character. Just because he’s not here or it didn’t end the way he liked it to end, it didn’t destroy his love of his foundation or love of Los Angeles.
“I think the real brilliance of an athlete comes with how he plays the game off the field.”
In addition to raising funds to benefit his Foundation’s efforts, Puig used the night to honor Manny Mota for his influence and mentorship. “He’s given a lot of good advice in baseball and life. My foundation is better right now because I took things from him,” Puig said.
“I flew to the Dominican a couple times to help him and give back to that community too. We want to keep working together to help kids in Los Angeles and Dominican Republic.”