Gregg Zaun spent 16 seasons as a back catcher in the MLB. Sporting the jerseys of nine different teams throughout his career, Zaun always made sure to give something back to the communities that gave him their full support. Although the Glendale, California native is no longer playing in the MLB, he continues to make an impact in the world of baseball and the city of Toronto, a place he now calls home. Zaun is now working as a studio MLB analyst for Rogers Sportsnetand a part-time analyst on Sportsnet 590 The FAN and the Blue Jays Radio Network and he’s very grateful for the opportunity he has gotten in a city like Toronto, a place that was so near and dear to his heart during his playing career.
“When I was a player in Toronto, Canadian people, especially in Toronto, have been so good to me and now being a broadcaster and traveling around and seeing the support for the show and being here full-time now, it makes me want to give back,” explained the 1997 World Series champion.
“I’ve always had a sense of charity and community. I grew up Catholic and one of the things that was instilled in us as children is a sense of community and a sense of charity and always giving back and I just wanted to make sure that the people in Canada understood how near and dear they are to my heart,” he continued.
“I don’t have any children of my own so any children’s charity that I can help out with is a great opportunity for me. Like I said, I have my job but I don’t have any children of my own, so it’s great to be able to use my spare time doing fun things to give back and making it a fun time for everybody.”
Zaun definitely knows how to have fun with what he’s doing and likes to incorporate as many age groups as he can in the charity work that he’s doing. Earlier this year, the Gregg Zaun Foundation, a Foundation that raises money and awareness for various causes, hosted its first Charity Beer Pong Tournament with all the proceeds going towards Kids Help Phone.
“The event got a lot of negative barks on Twitter and I got a couple of emails about the fact that we were doing a Beer Pong Tournament for Kids Help Phone, but you know what, it’s better than nothing,” stated Zaun.
“I’ve got a bunch of charity-minded people that are in their early 20s and they can’t afford to play a $1,000 golf tournament, but they can afford $20 a team for a beer pong tournament, and that’s what they do in college. We had a blast at the Beer Pong Tournament and we will definitely be doing another one.”
He understands that in order to be successful in the future, he needs to start building today. Although students are unable to dish out the large amounts of money at charity events like someone who has been working for many years, Zaun understands that even the smallest donation can go a long way and that students will donate to charity, if the price is right and reasonable for them.
“I was fortunate enough to have this mindset of charity and giving back early on in life. I had to do community service hours in high school just to graduate. Figuring out a way to inspire and include every demographic, you know, at some point, the kids your age, they’re going to be corporate Canada and they’re going to have the means to come out to an event like this [Zauntourage Charity Golf Classic], but, right now, what can they afford? They’re going to go out on King Street on a Saturday night to drink some beers, so if I can bring out someone like Steam Whistle to sponsor the beer and take the cost of that out of it for them and let them spend the money they would normally spend on a Saturday night but only have it go towards charity, they’re going to start to realize that they can be a part of charity and give back in different ways.”
This year’s Zauntourage Charity Golf Classic kicked off with a pre-party at the Gibson Guitar Lounge the night before the event, which featured performances from Hamilton-band The Reason and upcoming country artist Carly Jean Campbell. The concerts are a new thing that Zaun is trying out through his Foundation, being a music buff and all, and he’s really enjoyed it.
“The concerts have been the fun thing for me. People like to listen to music and drink beer and get together and it’s almost like we’re going to a bar for charity. As simple as it sounds, that’s how it works. You can listen to music and have a good time with your friends, but through the generosity from companies like Steam Whistle and Canadian Club, we’re allowing people to come in and have a good time and feel good about where their money is going,” described Zaun.
A few of Gregg’s favourite charities to donate to are the Kids Help Phone, Right To Play, Parkinson Society Canada, Childhood Cancer Canada and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). He mentioned that Right To Play is his “go-to charity”, but when something comes along and people need his help, he does whatever he can to help them raise money in a fun way.
“We always try to find interesting ways to raise money. I’m all about inspiration. One moment here, one moment there, I can be inspired by something new every time,” said Zaun.
“A friend of mine invited me to a Children’s Cancer Society fundraiser and I was so inspired and touched by the children that were there. How courageous they were and how they didn’t let anything bother them, it was really inspiring and I’ve been inspired by a lot of children through fundraisers,” he continued.
“If something inspires us and we have the means and the time, we are going to do something to help.”
As someone who grew up in a Catholic household, he has always been exposed to charity and community work and that has always been his mindset. When he made it to the Majors, he realized that the MLB Players Association thought the exact same way.
“The Players Association encouraged us to find our own voice and find what charities we want to get involved in. The teams all have a real big sense of community and giving back to the community because they know that their life’s blood is the fans so they try to get as involved as they possibly can in the community to help inspire love for the team and feel like there is a partnership there.”
Gregg Zaun is working hard off the field to continue to show his appreciation to the city of Toronto and baseball fans everywhere. He is doing whatever he can to get more and more people involved in charity work and he continues to share all the proceeds that come from his events with various causes. He is thinking outside the box with things like charity concerts and beer pong tournaments and as long as he continues to raise money for various causes, there’s no telling how big these events can get.
For more information on the Gregg Zaun Foundation, visit http://www.gzfoundation.com/