I didn't know what to expect as I made my way into the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Vancouver last Thursday.
I was lucky to get my hands on a pair of media passes (the other for a colleague at the North Shore News) for the 13th annual Jewish Community Centre (JCC) sports dinner.
This year, the JCC was honouring Gibsons' Ryan Dempster with the Jack Diamond Sports Personality of the Year award.
I found out about the award in December, when former Coast Reporter editor (now Province assistant sports editor Neville Judd) dropped me a line. I called the organizers and they jumped at the chance of having the newspaper editor of Dempster's home town on hand to cover the story.
I must admit, I didn't know anything about the JCC or Jack Diamond. I had never been to the sports dinner before. I expected a couple hundred people for a small dinner and the awards presentation. Imagine my surprise when I walked through the doors and was enveloped by a crowd of more than 900 people. (The JCC certainly knows how to throw a great party.)
The evening started with a cocktail reception and a chance to view more than 100 silent auction items. The room was filled with the who's who of Vancouver - attorney general Wally Opal, former Vancouver mayor now senator Larry Campbell, MLA Rich Coleman, MP Ujjal Dosanjh and former Diamond recipients Arthur Griffiths, Bob Lenarduzzi, Trevor Linden, Jack Poole and Stan Smyl.
As I caught my breath and wiped the stars from my eyes, I went in search of Dempster to ask for an interview opportunity.
Along the way, I spotted a beautiful New York Yankees framed print that I thought would make a great birthday gift for my Dad. I put down a bid and headed for the ballroom.
Dinner was an elegant affair - a phenomenal sit-down, three-course feast. Just prior to dinner, the head table was introduced with Dempster the last to be called up on stage.
After waving to the crowd and taking his seat, Ryan noticed me out of the corner of his eye as I was up front taking pictures. He gave me a big thumbs up and seemed pleased I was there. I have to admit that moment was pretty cool. Ryan deals with hundreds of reporters every day and for him to acknowledge me that way was awesome.
Later on I got my interview with Demp. He spent 10 or 15 minutes with me backstage and answered all my questions.I've had the pleasure now of interviewing Ryan on several occasions, both in person and on the phone. He's always given me a great interview and this occasion was no different.
When he was presented with the honour, he made a point of thanking all his friends, former coaches and family for making him the person he is today and for helping him with his career.
He cracked several jokes and his Harry Carry impersonation was spot on. Ryan is a true ambassador for the game of baseball and an ambassador for the Sunshine Coast. Ryan is a class act. I can think of no one more deserving than him for this award.
By the way, I also won the winning bid on the auction item. Happy birthday, Dad!