Friends help keep Lidle's event alive

Friends help keep Lidle's event alive

The generosity of Cory Lidle's spirit touched many lives during his all-too-brief time in this world, and thanks to a group of dedicated friends, that spirit lives on.

The Inaugural Cory Lidle Memorial Poker Tournament, scheduled for Sunday at Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles, will continue a tradition that Lidle established three years ago to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Lidle, who pitched for the Mets, Devil Rays, Athletics, Blue Jays, Reds, Phillies and Yankees before he died at age 34 when his small airplane crashed into a Manhattan apartment building last October, organized the first Cory Lidle Celebrity Poker Tournament in 2005.

It was held at Las Vegas' Hard Rock Hotel that year, moved to The Palms in Las Vegas in 2006 and has raised roughly $30,000.

After Lidle died, several of his friends -- Lou Birdt, Brandie Peters, Jesse Mendez and Dave Bletcher -- got together and decided that the best way to honor him was to keep the event alive. According to Birdt, the goal in 2007 is to raise at least $50,000.

"Cory helped a lot of his friends, and we were all witnesses to that," said Birdt. "This was an opportunity for us to give back to Cory, to show him how much we cared about him and how grateful we all were to have him as a friend."

Ultimate Blackjack Tour is the title sponsor, with Precision Hotel Interiors as an "MVP" sponsor, and as evidenced by the list of "All-Star" sponsors contributing to this year's event, Lidle made many friends in baseball.

Barry Zito, who played with Lidle in Oakland, is sponsoring a table on behalf of Zito's "Strikeouts For Troops" program, which helps families of soldiers wounded in the war in Iraq. Randy Wolf, who played with Lidle in Philadelphia, also is sponsoring a table. So is MLB.com, the Phillies organization and the Dodgers' Dream Foundation.

Sponsors not affiliated with baseball include Bluff Magazine, Wasserman Foundation and Ultimate Gear.

"We've had a lot of help," Birdt said. "And we're always looking for more to keep a good thing going."

Zito, Wolf and Mike Lieberthal, who also played with Lidle in Philly, are expected to be among the 300 players in the no-limit, hold-'em tourney, as are poker greats Freddy Deeb and Annie Duke.

Birdt said more poker celebs may appear pending schedules, and several of Lidle's former big-league colleagues have donated memorabilia for a raffle designed to raise additional funds for Make-A-Wish.

"I'm not a huge poker guy, but I'm a huge Cory Lidle guy," said Zito. "This was a no-brainer for me, and I hope everyone out there finds a way to chip in to a great cause that was obviously very close to Cory's heart."

To contribute to the Cory Lidle Foundation or to get more information on the still-open tournament, visit www.corylidle.org.

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.