ASPEN - Alden Richards and Dennis Rasmussen are hoping some big names can muster big support for the Roaring Fork Valley.
Richards, executive director of Aspen Junior Golf (AJG), and Rasmussen, a former Major League pitcher, have discussed the idea for almost three years. On Sunday, their vision becomes reality when the "Swing with the Legends Classic" hits Aspen.
Rasmussen, other members of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) and former and current professional athletes will meet here to participate in two days of events that include a charity golf tournament, fundraising dinner at the Hotel Jerome and even a baseball clinic. The objective: Help raise funds to support AJG, the MLBPAA and the Shining Stars Foundation, which provides sport, recreation and other programs for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
Richards and Rasmussen, who compiled a 91-77 record in parts of 12 big-league seasons playing for five teams (including a Yankees squad managed by Yogi Berra), first met six years ago while participating in PGA pro Chris DiMarco's annual charity golf tournament in Orlando, Fla. In the years that followed, they struck up a friendship.
Rasmussen traveled to Aspen to take part in a pro-am and decided to host a baseball clinic. About 25 kids took part.
Rasmussen left thinking, "We need to expand on this."
"I really enjoy good people helping good people with their hearts in the right spot," he said Tuesday. "And when you add a local charity like Shining Stars, it's a win-win. ... This was a no-brainer.
In an effort to bolster support of local youth programs and charities - a primary objective of the MLBPAA - Rasmussen has enlisted some friends, former teammates and fellow professional sports standouts to take part this weekend. Among those slated to attend are:
• Former NFL running back Tony Davis, who was MVP of the Sugar and Cotton bowls in the same calendar year while playing for Tom Osborne at Nebraska. He how operates an ESPN Radio affiliate in Fort Collins.
• Six-time MLB All-Star Bobby Grich, who won four Gold Gloves and led the league in home runs in 1981. He was inducted into the Angels' and the Orioles' halls of fame.
• Bob Knepper, a 17-game winner for the Giants in 1978 and a member of San Francisco's 1989 N.L. Championship squad that played in the famed "Earthquake Series".
• Former NFL great Ed Podolak, a valley resident and the Kansas City Chiefs' second all-time leading rusher (4,451 yards). He was inducted into the team's hall of fame in 1989.
• Former Reds pitcher Ron Robinson, whose career was replete with 48 wins and a near no-hitter; he came within one out of making history in 1988 against the Expos.
• Reliever Mike Timlin, whose resume includes four World Series wins. While pitching for the Red Sox on Sept. 15, 2008, he set the record for most relief appearances for a right-handed pitcher with 1,050.
• Three-time PGA Tour winner Chris DiMarco, a longtime supporter of AJG.
• AJG alum and current Nationwide Tour player Ryan Hietala.
• Champions Tour standout Denis Watson, who has amassed a total of seven wins on the PGA Tour and the senior circuit.
Each foursome in Monday's tournament will be paired with a sports star.
Before groups take to the links, Rasmussen and other former baseball players will host a free clinic from 12 to 2 p.m. Sunday at Iselin Field, next to the Aspen Recreation Center.
"It's a way for us to give back," Rasmussen said. "We're impacting kids with positive role models that have had success at a higher level, in particular professional baseball. We can share some of those experiences and relate to kids. It's amazing what that does to a lot of kids. It's like a switch goes on with some of them, and they dream and aspire to be more and to get more out of their lives."
"We're really excited," Richards added. "It's a fresh change for Aspen, something we've never done before. ... There's a ton of kids in our program that play golf, a ton of kids that play baseball, a ton of kids that play hockey. ... What we're trying to do is open up new doors of opportunity for them.
"Not enough programs are taking care of the kids."
Richards said he is hoping to raise $60,000 to $80,000.
Rasmussen said he is happy to lend a hand.
"Baseball players haven't come up here and done a big event like this. ... It's so exciting to see," he added. "We're hoping to create a positive experience."
Interested in participating or making a donation? For more information on Sunday's and Monday's events, visit www.aspenjuniorgolf.com.