Free-agent right-hander Chris Sampson, a fan favorite with the Houston Astros over the past five seasons, will host the Michael Gill Benefit Ragball Tournament on Jan. 22 at Channelview Little League Complex to raise money for childhood friend Michael Gill, who was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma (grade 3 brain cancer) in March 2007.
The double elimination tournament is open to the first 56 teams to register, with an entry fee of $300 per team (10 members per team; may register up to 12 people) or $30 per person (at least four females), with a minimum age of 16.
Multiple champions will be crowned while utilizing seven different fields.
Participants can begin arriving at 8:00 a.m., as Sampson intends to welcome everyone and introduce Gill prior to the tournament’s scheduled start at 9:00 a.m.
LoneStar Baseball Academy, co-owned by Sampson and Kade Johnson, plans to field a team that will include Sampson himself.
Astros catcher J.R. Towles, free-agent slugger Jorge Cantu, Washington Nationals right-hander Garrett Mock and Sampson will sign autographs, pose for photos and mingle with fans and participants throughout the entire event.
Former Astros right-hander Brandon Backe, who recently got married, may be on hand, but it’s still questionable whether he’ll attend.
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Constable of Harris County Precinct 3 Ken Jones and Sampson’s former Channelview High School coach Kerry Cox are also expected to appear.
MLB memorabilia and autographed items, including a Lance Berkman game-used bat and glove, highlight the silent auction, which also features an assortment of gift certificates, as well as a hand-painted, game-used bat of Sampson’s donated by Juan DeLeon, owner of Juan DeLeon Studio.
Furthermore, the winner of the home run derby receives a Berkman autographed bat.
Even if interested individuals don’t plan to participate in the tournament, Sampson encourages as many people as possible to attend, whether it’s just to watch live music, purchase a plate of barbecue or get autographs from the big leaguers.
“We’ve been doing quite a bit of legwork to get this going,” Sampson said via a phone interview. “We’ve sent out mass emails to create awareness. We appreciate those who are signing up. You can also show up and buy a plate of barbecue, purchase items in the silent auction or get autographs.
“It all helps our cause.”
Coca-Cola, Daniel’s Meat Market (Baytown, Texas), Las Palomas Mexican Restaurant (Channelview, Texas), LoneStar Baseball Academy and Minute Maid represent the collective group of sponsors, with Chick-fil-A still a possibility.
Also, Channelview Little League has done an exceptional job behind the scenes in coordinating the event with Sampson.
“Minute Maid is donating all of the drinks and $500 for brisket,” Sampson said. “Channelview Little League assembled a committee just to focus on the tournament to make sure everyone is on the same page. They aren’t charging us for the two concession stands and they’re donating the fields at no charge.”
Sampson wants everyone to keep in mind that the day belongs to Gill, as all proceeds benefit the Gill family to help with medical expenses.
Gill has undergone two brain surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation, yet continues to push forward and inspire others due to the loving support of friends and family, including his wife, Dana, two daughters (ages 10 and six) and one son (seven months old).
“Mike and his family are the true champions,” Sampson said. “I’ve known Mike ever since junior high. We’re lifelong friends and I’ll do anything to help him. We grew up playing on these fields in Channelview.
“It should be a great day to come out and be part of a noble cause.”
To register a team, become a sponsor or donate silent auction items, Sampson welcomes all interested parties to email him directly at email@example.com, with “Mike Gill Benefit” as the subject line.
Sampson will respond to all emails pertaining to the event by answering questions and sending the necessary registration and donation forms.
Donations can be made personally to the Gill family at Wells Fargo Bank under the account name “Mike Gill Benefit.”
Teams wishing to participate need to sign up ASAP (no later than Jan. 18) in order for Sampson to have proper time to set the brackets.
“We’re still needing donations and spare money to get additional t-shirts, brisket, beans, potato salad, forks, spoons and all the small stuff,” Sampson said. “We’re also appreciative of all donations for the Gill family. If it’s one dollar, we’ll take it.
“Whatever anyone can afford, $5, $10, $500, we thank you for that.”
For the latest Houston Astros news, click on the Subscribe button at the top of the page. Also, be sure to follow Stephen Goff on Facebook and Twitter, or write firstname.lastname@example.org.