Alyson Footer

Diana Ross belts out hits at Astros' Gala

Diana Ross belts out hits at Astros' Gala

HOUSTON -- Coming up in 2017, the Astros have a Spring Training ballpark to christen, a Hall of Famer to celebrate and a pennant to chase. But first, they had to wrap up the offseason, and they did so with a bang on Friday at Minute Maid Park, thanks in large part to a superstar diva, who brought with her an extensive library of legendary hits.

The Astros second annual "Diamond Dreams Gala" featured the supremely talented Diana Ross, who belted out nearly 20 of the greatest hits that defined her legendary career, first as a member of the Supremes in the 1960s and then as a solo artist in the decades that followed.

"She puts on a great show," said Twila Carter, executive director of community relations and the Astros Foundation. "It's great to have her here and have a really nice casual evening of good entertainment, good food and good fans."

Performing on a stage in center field, Ross opened her show with "I'm Coming Out" and from there delighted the crowd of more than 800 revelers with hit after hit, including "My World Is Empty Without You," "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Can't Hurry Love."

Proceeds from the evening benefited the Astros Foundations and New Hope Housing, an organization combatting homelessness by providing housing and support services for those in need.

New Hope is one of several charitable endeavors the Astros have incorporated into their community efforts since Jim Crane purchased the club five years ago.

"We really worked hard with the foundation," Crane said. "The foundation, when we started about five years ago, really didn't have a lot of funds in it. So we really worked hard to get a lot of great sponsors and raise some money so we can give back to the community."

With a fundraising goal of $1 million, the Diamond Dreams gala is the Astros' biggest community event of the year. And they back it up with plenty of star power to satisfy several hundred well-heeled patrons. Last year, James Taylor performed at the inaugural event; with Ross bringing down the house at Friday's soiree, it's hard to imagine how the Astros can possibly top this next year.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, enthusiastically humming a few bars Ross's songs as he opened his remarks to reporters, expressed his appreciation for the musical icon's wide-ranging fanbase.

"She is a musical icon and expands several generations," he said. "She still appeals to a younger audience and a very diverse audience. She's in the most diverse city in America, and she appeals to a very diverse audience. And we have her in this city -- how cool is that? I'm Houston proud."

Wearing a sparkly black sequined dress and tossing her signature thick mane of hair, Ross wowed the crowd with "Love Child," "Touch Me in the Morning," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," the theme song from her starring role in "Mahogany" and another song from a film she made famous -- "Ease on Down the Road" from The Wiz.

Ross concluded the show with "I Will Survive," a timeless song that was first made famous by Gloria Gaynor in the 1970s.

Most of the current Astros team, plus several players from years past, attended the gala. Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were among the nearly two dozen current players in attendance, while Brandon Backe, Craig Biggio, Nolan Ryan, Jimmy Wynn, Art Howe and Enos Cabell highlighted a long list of former Astros who appeared at the event.

Earlier in the evening, a few Astros players -- all born in the late 1980s to mid-1990s -- admitted they weren't all that familiar with Ross' music. Collin McHugh couldn't necessarily name any of Ross' songs, but he was able to appreciate her legendary status as a Motown superstar.

"I am excited to see her," he said. "She is a legend, so it should be a lot of fun. I'm pretty sure my mom is so jealous right now."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.