Porter's S.E.L.F. Foundation hosts benefit dinner
Hall of Famer Dawson delivers keynote, CFB legend Fry honored at inaugural event
HOUSTON -- College Football Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry knows something about winning, and he's convinced the Houston Astros will get things turned around under manager Bo Porter -- who played for Fry at the University of Iowa from 1992-94 -- relatively soon.
"He'll do it quicker than people think," said Fry, who was honored Thursday night at the inaugural "A Legacy Lasts Forever Dinner" at the Hilton Americas Hotel, which benefited the Bo Porter S.E.L.F. Foundation.
More than 400 people attended the $500-per-plate star-studded gala, which helped the foundation started last year by Bo and Stacey Porter raise money to benefit local youth programs. The dinner was the vision of Porter, who just completed his first season as Astros manager.
"It's a night that obviously we have looked forward to for a long time, my wife and I and our board and all of our volunteers, all of our host committee," Porter said. "To see it all come together, it's pretty rewarding."
Hall of Fame outfielder Andre Dawson, a close friend of Porter, delivered the keynote address and was among a handful of present and former Major League stars in attendance, including LaTroy Hawkins, Chris Young, Gary Sheffield, Jimmy Wynn, J.R. Richard and Darren Oliver.
Current Astros players Josh Zeid, Jarred Cosart, Matt Dominguez, Lucas Harrell, Brett Wallace and Robbie Grossman also were in attendance, along with Astros coach Pat Listach, former Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward and former football star Jerry LeVias, who was recruited by Fry to play at Southern Methodist University, where he broke the color barrier in the Southwest Conference in 1966.
"Those people that are out here tonight are showing their support for the S.E.L.F. Foundation, and we can't thank them enough for everything they've accomplished," Porter said.
But man of the hour was Fry, who coached 47 years and turned around programs at North Texas, SMU and Iowa, where Porter was a defensive back and a star outfielder for the baseball program. Porter flew to Nevada earlier in the week and escorted Fry and his wife, Shirley, to Houston, and he hosted a dinner at his house for the couple on Wednesday.
"This is going to be an extremely special night for Coach Fry," Porter said. "He was surprised from the moment he stepped off the airplane here. We had a great reception dinner at our house with a lot of ex-players that have come into town here. He's on Cloud 9 right now."
Porter presented Fry, 84, with the inaugural Legacy Honoree Torch Award during Thursday's dinner following a video of his career highlights.
"Bo Porter is like my son," Fry said. "I'm so proud of him. He was a great student, a great football player, a great baseball player in college and junior high school, and he has the intelligence to turn any program around. He was so close this year and lost so many games by one run."
Porter also paid tribute to the family of fallen Houston firefighter Matthew Renaud, a huge Astros fan who was one of four firefighters killed battling a restaurant blaze on May 31. Renaud's brother was presented with an Astros jersey with his last name and No. 51 on the back, emblematic of fire station 51.
Established in 2012, the S.E.L.F. Foundation is dedicated to improving and impacting the lives of others through "Sports, Education, Life skills and Faith." The foundation presented checks to three Houston Independent School District middle schools for a total of $87,500 on Thursday to help fund afterschool programs and summer programs to assist eighth-graders transition into high school.
"We're happy and we're not a bit surprised to see what Bo has done," said honorary dinner chairman Robert Duncan.
Young, a free-agent outfielder who spent last season with the A's, knew Porter from his time as a young player growing up in Houston and later with the D-backs, where Porter was the bench coach and third-base coach.
"It's great he's doing something here, and I wanted to come out and show some support," he said.
Dawson and Porter befriended each other while both were with the Marlins, and the Hawk was thoroughly impressed at how grand Porter's dinner was for a first-time event.
"I should hope his mom is very proud of him," Dawson said. "There's only a select few in the position that he's in and now to start his own foundation, which is something he's always dreamed of. He's driven. He would never take 'no' for an answer, and he knows how to get the job done. When he has a vision and he says he's going to do it, he does it."
Porter said it was thrilled to have Dawson in attendance.
"When Stacey and I started the foundation, he was one of the first phone calls I made and asked him to be a part of it," he said. "Our relationship is a special one, and to have him here for what he means to baseball and what his relationship means to me and my wife, it's an honor."