Dallas Mavericks

Dirk, Dak and other stars pack ballpark for charity baseball game

Some of the most famous people in the history of Dallas/Fort Worth sports were all sitting at a dais for Dirk Nowitzki to arrive for a press conference before his Heroes Celebrity Baseball game at Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.

Dallas Cowboys stars Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith, along with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and a group of Mavericks players, were all on hand to help Nowitzki carry on a tradition started by Mike Modano and Cuban in 2001.

This is the eighth year Nowitzki has hosted the event, which benefits The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation and the Heroes Foundation. The Heroes Foundation is a nonprofit initiative bringing sports training and competition to children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

The fact that Nowitzki was a couple of minutes late didn’t bother anyone. They were all just proud to be associated with Nowitzki and the charity event.

“It’s my first one as a retired guy. It feels good,” Nowitzki said. “I haven’t worked out in two months, but I’m excited to be here. I’ll be the designated hitter today. Running has been an issue this summer. I’d rather just hit and let the other guys do all of the work.”

Nowitzki, who retired in April after 21 seasons with the Mavericks, has become as synonymous with his charitable work as he was with basketball. And his annual celebrity-laden baseball game is a big reason why.

“It almost feels like this game now is part of this community and we obviously appreciate all of the support, from all of the celebs. This game wouldn’t be possible without those guys,” he said.

He wasn’t always so sure. When former Dallas Stars player Mike Modano asked Nowitzki to take over after 10 years, Nowitzki was hesitant.

“My first reaction was absolutely not. I’d never played baseball in my life and I didn’t want to look completely silly,” he said.

“But they talked me into it the first year. [Modano] made it easier for me to step in and carry the torch so it’s been a great, great success with the support from many, many people.”

The game has raised over $4.5 million. Friday’s game was sold out with almost 12,000 in attendance.

“It’s’ an honor just to be associated with an event like this,” said Prescott, who was one of a handful of Cowboys there to lend a hand. “Not only great athletes, but great men. It’s something I look forward to being a part of for a long time.”

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Stefan Stevenson has been covering sports for the Star-Telegram since 1997. He spent five years covering TCU athletics, which included two BCS bowls, two trips to the college World Series and the move to the Big 12. He has covered the Texas Rangers since 2014 and started reporting on the Dallas Cowboys in 2016.