SARASOTA — Jim Johnson needed something to do.
After injuring his elbow in 2010, the Baltimore Orioles pitcher and East County resident found himself with an unexpected amount of free time.
Johnson decided it was the perfect time to give back to the community he called home for the past several years.
With the help of OriolesREACH, the organization’s division for charity work, Johnson came up with the idea to host a golf tournament.
Johnson had a list of several potential charities, but, in the end, the Miracle League of Manasota, an organization dedicated to providing the opportunity for every person to play baseball regardless of his ability, best fit the criteria while touching on two areas that hit particularly close to home — baseball and children.
Johnson has two young children of his own.
“Having that tie to both baseball and kids and being able to bring it all together (was important),” he says.
On Feb. 20, the Baltimore Orioles will host their third annual Birdland Golf Classic, at the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club. The golf tournament will begin with registration and lunch at 11 a.m. followed by a shotgun start at 12:30 p.m.
Thirty current and former players and personnel from the Orioles organization will be participating in the tournament, including Johnson, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manager Buck Showalter.
Registration for the Birdland Golf Classic is $325 for individuals and $1,250 per foursome. Hole sponsorships also are available, as well as a $2,500 MVP sponsorship, which includes recognition as a presenting sponsor, a foursome with the opportunity to select an Orioles playing partner, four infield box seats to a 2013 Orioles spring training game and more.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the Miracle League of Manasota to cover the operational costs associated with field maintenance throughout the year.
Since its inception, the Birdland Golf Classic has raised more than $56,000 for the Miracle League of Manasota, and Johnson hopes to raise more than $35,000 this year.
“This is an opportunity to do something good,” Johnson says. “I feel like it’s part of my job title to do something like this. The reward is better and more important than any baseball game.”
In addition to the Orioles players, some of the Miracle League players also will be on hand throughout the event.
It was in spring 2011, during the first Birdland Golf Classic, that Johnson met some of the Miracle League players, including Mike Moycka, with whom he has developed a unique bond.
Since then, Moycka has thrown out the first pitch at an Orioles game and writes letters to Johnson throughout the season.
“He liked to talk smack,” Johnson says of Moycka. “I think that’s what really impressed me. He wasn’t afraid to tell me who was better than me. I appreciated his honesty.”
For more information and to register for the Birdland Golf Classic, call 225-2966 or visit miracleleaguemanasota.org. The deadline to register is Feb. 6.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].