Texas Rangers radio broadcaster Jared Sandler was one of those fans hit hard by the news. As founder of the Sandlot Children’s Charity, Sandler had booked Coolio to perform at the organization’s annual Swinging for a Cause event, to be held in December at Top Golf in The Colony. After five years, Coolio was to be the event’s first-ever musical guest.
“I got a text saying Coolio had died,” Sandler says. “I was crushed. My very first thought was, ‘What are we going to do now?’ but I took a quick step back and thought about how he was a father and had a circle of loved ones that didn’t care about a concert he was booked for.”
As an on-air personality during Rangers games as well as pre- and post-game broadcasts for seven years now, Sandler is an established member of the local sports media. But in the past few months, he’s found that putting on a concert is another game entirely.
“I’ve learned that there’s a lot more than I realized that goes into booking concerts, especially at a non-traditional venue like Top Golf,” he says.
Swinging for a Cause, the Sandlot Children’s Charity’s sports-focused fundraiser, has been held since 2017. It’s the product of a mission Sandler began conceptualizing as a sports-mad kid who had a soft heart for classmates he would see on the playground or ballfield dealing with obvious disabilities.
“I developed an interest, early on, in seeing kids with disabilities get the same opportunities as I had,” he says. “I also appreciated seeing them overcome their challenges.”
After establishing his presence in North Texas through his role with the Rangers and the team’s flagship station, 105.3 The Fan, Sandler teamed up with the Special Olympics to begin turning his altruistic dreams into reality by hosting the first Swing for a Cause in 2017.
According to the Sandlot Children's Charity website, the group “provides financial assistance for kids with physical and intellectual disabilities, specifically for those who are in pursuit of athletic opportunities and sport-specific experiences.”
The event has continued to grow over the past five years, continually drawing more attendees each year. For 2022, however, Sandler wanted to go bigger in an effort to increase his charity’s exposure beyond local sports fans. Although he’s a music fan, Sandler isn’t an avid concertgoer, due mainly to his full-time gig working nights for the Rangers. As a result, concert planning and promotion aren’t exactly his field of expertise.
For insight and helpful assistance, Sandler was able to call on a couple of guys who do know something about booking bands. His fellow Rangers broadcaster, Eric Nadel, was one source. Nadel, a beloved Hall of Fame baseball radio voice, is also a longtime veteran of charity concert promotion. Well-known for his fine musical taste, Nadel puts his name on an annual birthday fundraising concert as well as regular shows benefitting the nonprofit Momentum Café in downtown Dallas.
Sandler also says that Tony Avezzano, a local talent booker and concert promoter who had orchestrated donations to the first Swing for a Cause event, “held my hand” throughout much of the concert booking process.
“Bowling For Soup was the first band I mentioned ... To have a local band performing, especially one I loved growing up, is just great.” – Jared Sandler
An attention-grabbing musical act would get his charity’s name in front of a new audience, Sandler thought. Say what you will about Coolio, but to this day, few Gen-Xers alive are unable to easily recite the words to classics such as “Fantastic Voyage” and “C U When You Get There.” On top of that, Sandler says, Coolio’s 1995 mega-hit "Gangsta's Paradise" “was my first-ever favorite song.”
Instead of letting the tragic news derail plans for Swinging for a Cause’s new musical direction, he and Avezzano got back to work. They soon found another act, and arguably one that will draw more locals. North Texas pop-punk heroes Bowling For Soup ended up being available to replace Coolio after the event moved its date to Dec. 11 to avoid a conflict with a Dallas Cowboys game.
“Bowling For Soup was the first band I mentioned,” Sandler says. “To have a local band performing, especially one I loved growing up, is just great.”
Even the most seasoned, grizzled music industry pros know that if it’s not one thing, it’s another when planning a big event. Sandler has learned that in the first few months of his concert-planning career. But for the most part, they're lessons that have made him feel better about what he’s doing.
“Mainly I’ve learned there are some really good people,” Sandler says, "that even though it’s a business to them, they really care about supporting the community and giving back.”
Swinging For a Cause featuring Bowling For Soup takes place on Sunday, Dec. 11, at Top Golf in The Colony. Visit www.thesandlot.org for tickets and information.