"I thought, 'What a bunch of crazy people out there in the cold,'" Brett recalled. "Little did I know that I'd be one of them some day, and then also every year after that."
For the fourth straight year, the Hall of Famer will not only be one of the "crazy people" standing on the street corners, selling papers and shivering for Greater Kansas City Day, he will also serve as the event's co-chair. Actually, make that the "honorary co-chair" for the 20th anniversary of the annual event.
Since its inception in 1988, Greater Kansas City Day has called on community sports and civic celebrities to help raise funds for the Rotary Youth Camp and additional children's charities in the area. The more than 1,500 volunteers who participate each year spend the morning on the streets of Greater Kansas City, avoiding traffic and selling special editions of the Kansas City Star. Always coinciding with the Royals' home opener, this year's Greater Kansas City Day is Monday, April 2, before the Royals kick off the 2007 season against the Boston Red Sox.
"It doesn't seem possible that we have reached two decades of this event," said Rusty Macy, the event's steering committee co-chair. "We are proud to have George Brett again serve as our honorary chairman this year."
In honor of the 20th anniversary milestone, the event has invited all the past co-chairs to return to the role. George Brett first served as a co-chair for the event's 10th anniversary in 1997, holding the honors with Hallmark's Adele Hall.
"George has been a part of Greater Kansas City Day ever since his retirement from baseball," said Steering Committee Co-Chair Mike Horton. "Even when he wasn't an honorary chairman, he was out on the street corners helping us sell papers and raising funds for the Rotary Youth Camp. He has now become our annual honorary chair and there is no one better to fill that assignment than Kansas City's Mr. Baseball."
The list of past co-chairs features several Kansas City notables and members of the Royals organization, including Royals Owner David Glass and President Dan Glass, Royals Hall of Famers Paul Splittorff, Jeff Montgomery, Dan Quisenberry and Frank White, former catcher and manager Bob Boone, former coach Bob Gamboa, Kansas City icon Buck O'Neil, Brett's wife, Leslie, and former Royals owners Muriel and Ewing Kauffman.
In the last 20 years, the event has raised nearly $2 million for the camp, which caters to the needs of disadvantaged youth and children. At a press conference held at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum on Thursday, Feb. 15, a special 20th anniversary logo was unveiled. Brett, who joined Hall and other past co-chair Tony DiPardo for the press conference, had no trouble explaining why he does not really mind waking up at 4:30 a.m. to sell newspapers on an often chilling April morning.
"Ever since I've had kids, my heart is with kids," Brett said. "Greater Kansas City Day is a great, great, great cause with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who feel as strongly about it as I do. As long as I can, I will be a part of this event."