Two great forces in local girls softball are combining efforts for a huge fundraiser Saturday night, and organizers are hoping to hit one out of the park.
The Novato Girls Softball Association has joined dugouts with the Gary Gates Memorial Foundation for the first time and will co-host the popular Gary Gates Pasta Dinner Night Out at ’s hall starting at 5:30 p.m.
This is the 15th year for the benefit event, but the first time the softball association will officially take part and become a beneficiary. That’s because members of the foundation board approached Novato Girls Softball to participate as the effort to build the Gary Gates Memorial Field at winds down after nearly 20 years of planning, construction and periodic upgrades. The lighted field, the premiere softball diamond in Novato if not the North Bay, is home to the San Marin Mustangs, the perennial powerhouse team in the Marin County Athletic League.
“(Board member) Stan Pelmear was saying how all of us on the board have been doing this a lot of years and don’t have kids playing anymore, and it was time to get others involved,” said Emily Gates, the longtime music teacher at San Marin who asked for help in building the field after her husband died more than two decades ago.
“We’re nearing the end of what we need at the field and we need to include people who have kids who are playing. We thought rather than asking the younger people, we’d ask Novato Girls Softball because they’re the ones who train the players.”
Gates said association president Chris Augusto was thrilled to take up the offer and get more people involved in organizing the fundraiser.
The field was constructed by local volunteers, spearheaded by Gates Foundation board member Jim Spilman, and the majority of the work was completed in 2008-2010. Hundreds and possibly 1,000 people were involved in the building of the field.
Field improvements that still need to happen include the installation of foul poles, padding at the top of the outfield fences and paint and roof work for the snack shack.
“We don’t need as big of a slice as we did before,” Gates said of the Gates Foundation and the field building efforts. “There are a few things we want to add, but we didn’t want this to just be about San Marin. We figure the field is for everyone to use and this is the right way to go.”
Saturday’s event will feature the pasta dinner, dancing, auction items and a truly amazing live auction of homemade desserts. It’s common to have cakes sell for hundreds of dollars as revelers egg on each other to bid higher for a good cause.
Live auction items this year include an abalone dinner for 12, a homemade dinner for eight made by Emily Gates herself, and a crab fishing trip.
Tickets are $15, and money raised will go toward field efforts, college scholarships to softball players at San Marin and schools and, for the first time, the Novato Girls Softball Association.
Tickets can be purchased at garygatesfoundation.org or by calling 898-7337, 370-9498 or 898-5696. Donations are appreciated.