The crowd at downtown’s Minute Maid Park was on its feet cheering, although this time not for an Altuve home run, Verlander strikeout, or Springer dinger. Rather, it was for a stunning performance by the "Empress of Soul,” Gladys Knight, who performed at the 2018 Diamond Dreams Gala hosted by the Astros Foundation.
The Grammy Award-winning singer and Motown legend hit the stage in front of an audience of 1,000 guests, never missing a beat as she performed signature hits, from “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and “Love Overboard,” to “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” — as well as a few cover songs, like Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” a duet with a male vocalist of Bruno Mars' “When I Was Your Man,” and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
Knight gave an energetic performance, interacting with fans and dancing across the stage throughout her set, which was nearly an hour and half long.
The event was held on the Astros playing field, and although the retractable stadium roof was closed, a chill was in the air. One glance at the women in-the-know, who donned heavy coats and furs, and ditched dresses in favor of pants, and you knew who’d previously attended the annual cocktail-attire event, now in its third year.
But thanks to a handy Houston Astros souvenir blanket at each chair, numerous outdoor patio heaters, and lots of hot dance moves both onstage and in the crowd, frosty temps were quickly forgotten.
ABC-13 anchor Tom Koch emceed the evening, while Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane addressed attendees, noting that the Astros Foundation — which supports youth baseball and softball programs, recognizes and honors the nation’s military, and works to raise childhood cancer awareness and reduce homelessness — has gone from $30,000 when he took over the team, to approximately $20 million in reserve.
Crane thanked the team for their support of the Foundation saying, “The players spend a lot of their time helping and we appreciate them coming tonight. They’re the backbone and draw the attention, and it’s nice of those guys to come out. I would say that there would be more here, but about six or seven are already in West Palm Beach working out, so I am happy with that.”
Several Astros players were in Newport Beach for Astros World Series MVP George Springer's wedding to longtime love Charlise Castro this weekend at The Resort of Pelican Hill.
Even so, a number of players turned out, including infielder Marwin Gonzalez, catcher Brian McCann, pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., outfielder Josh Reddick, infielder Tyler White, and third baseman Alex Bregman. Also in attendance: former Astros players and staff Brandon Backe, Geoff Blum, Enos Cabell, Phil Garner, Art Howe, J. R. Richard, Chris Sampson, Jimmy Wynn, Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, and Nolan Ryan, who now serves as Astros executive advisor.
During the gala, attendees snapped photos with the World Series Trophy — currently on a 100-city tour — and enjoyed a three-course dinner by Aramark Catering, including braised beef short rib and a dome-shaped dessert encircled by a World-Series-Trophy-shaped fondant. Later, guests danced the night away at an after-party at Union Station Lobby, with lively spins by DJ Taylor Tran and DJ Mr. Rogers.
The charitable event raised more than $1.4 million benefiting the Astros Foundation, as well as New Hope Housing, an organization combating homelessness by providing housing and support services for those in need.
Spotted in the crowd: Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan, Kara Kinder Vidal, Gary Petersen, Janet Gurwitch and Ron Franklin, Jo and Jin Furr, Debbie and Kent Chenevert, Astros Foundation executive director Twila Carter, Mack Fowler, MLB reporter Alyson Footer, Trina Boland, Graham McKernan, Dolores Lozano, and Houston-based rapper Slim Thug.