Welcome Back Veterans supports troops

Welcome Back Veterans supports troops

The last Major League Baseball caps you see this weekend will be special new "Stars & Stripes" models worn by all players on Memorial Day, as MLB begins its third year of national fundraising and awareness initiatives for Welcome Back Veterans.

The apolitical program addresses the needs of returning American Veterans and their families. With the support of MLB and its clubs, since 2008 has awarded $8.3 million in grants to 30 non-profit agencies across the country targeting veterans' greatest needs, including mental health and job training/placement.

At three key points of national reflection during the baseball season -- Memorial Day (Monday), Independence Day weekend (July 4) and Patriot Day (September 11) -- all clubs will participate in a number of initiatives to support Welcome Back Veterans.

For games on Memorial Day, all clubs will wear special new "Stars & Stripes" caps. The caps will have the American flag etched into the team's logo and for the first time, will be off-white in color with red or blue brims (the Blue Jays hat will incorporate a Maple Leaf design instead of the "Stars & Stripes"). These MLB Authentic Collection caps from New Era are available at the MLB.com Shop now. MLB Properties will donate all of the proceeds it receives from the cap sales to Welcome Back Veterans, and that fund also will receive $1 from each additional cap bought through the MLB.com Shop.

Also on Memorial Day, MLB once again will participate in the National Moment of Remembrance, with all games in progress pausing at 3 p.m. ET to encourage all citizens to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have served in the armed forces.

"As a social institution, Major League Baseball considers it a privilege to assist our troops in any way possible," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are proud to help Welcome Back Veterans provide funding to such worthy institutions helping our troops, and we ask our fans to join us on Memorial Day and beyond in this effort to raise awareness and support for this important cause."

"Helping our troops is a cause very close to my heart, and I'm glad to see Major League Baseball will once again pledge their support on Memorial Day and beyond," said Giants pitcher Barry Zito, founder of Strikeouts For Troops. "I'll wear my Stars & Stripes cap proudly that day, and I encourage all my fellow players to get involved, give back to those who give so much and show these brave men and women how much we care about them."

Welcome Back Veterans is an MLB Charities initiative in partnership with the McCormick Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation, started by a group of citizens led by Mets chairman Fred Wilpon. The program is supported by MLB Advanced Media and MLB Network.

"We are honored to support those who have served our country and their families who have given so much," said David D. Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation. "We are proud to join Major League Baseball in this effort and provide matching dollars to help our servicemen and women successfully return to life with their families and communities."

"Major League Baseball's powerful commitment to supporting our soldiers and their families is truly inspirational," said Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF). "EIF is proud to join MLB and the fans of America's pastime in honoring and celebrating the lives of America's heroes."

During the 2009 World Series, MLB for the first time used the individual games as global platforms for its major initiatives, to take advantage of natural attention and help with awareness. Welcome Back Veterans was the theme of the first game at Yankee Stadium in that series, with First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the vice president's wife, visiting a Bronx VA facility with MLB during the afternoon and then participating in the pregame ceremonies that night.

Welcome Back Veterans empowers businesses to help create job opportunities for returning veterans, and three major universities -- Cornell, Michigan and Stanford -- have been collaborating to create a protocol for helping returning veterans -- and their family members -- avoid mental health problems commonly associated with life after combat.

"We need to, in my view, tell all Americans that we're not sharing the sacrifice of our armed forces," Wilpon said. "We should all realize that. They're burdened with the sacrifice -- although they don't call it a burden -- for our freedom and our way of life.

"Whether you agree with this war or don't -- and frankly we are trying to keep this apolitical -- you have to look at these fine men and women and say, 'They're the ones who are serving.'"

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.