MLB to help raise autism awareness throughout season
Initiative linked to Autism Speaks; all 30 clubs designating game to support cause
By Mark Newman
Major League Baseball announced on Thursday, World Autism Awareness Day, that it will again conduct a league-wide effort during the season to raise awareness for autism, linking with Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. Each club will select one home game to support the cause.
"Major League Baseball proudly joins all 30 clubs, our fans and Autism Speaks to raise awareness for autism and for families affected by this disorder," MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell said, "and we all look forward to the wonderful activities at our ballparks this season through this initiative."
"These teams are competitors on the baseball field, but we are so grateful that they've teamed up to support the cause," said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. "Not only does Major League Baseball raise awareness among millions of fans, these clubs make it possible for families to have a great day at the ballpark."
Many of the MLB Autism Awareness games throughout the league will provide special opportunities and a safe, friendly environment for families and individuals affected by autism, allowing them to experience a game like never before. Additionally, a part of the proceeds from select games' ticket sales will benefit Autism Speaks' efforts to increase awareness, fund innovative autism research and family services, and advocate for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
Many clubs will work with Autism Speaks or other autism awareness organizations to recognize local families during pregame ceremonies. In select ballparks, members of the autism community can enjoy the game from designated "Quiet Zones," with a sensory-friendly environment. Some clubs also will provide opportunities to participate in various traditional baseball activities, including throwing out the first pitch, singing the national anthem, announcing "Play Ball!," singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and performing "God Bless America."
More than 30 Autism Awareness events took place at MLB ballparks last season, resulting in thousands of dollars from game ticket sales that went toward efforts by Autism Speaks to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families. It is the fastest-growing serious developmental disorder.
All fans can get involved right away by participating in World Autism Awareness Day -- unanimously declared by the United Nations -- choosing to "Light It Up Blue" all over social media using the #LIUB hashtag. April is National Autism Awareness Month in the U.S.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders -- autism spectrum disorders (ASD) -- caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties and social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors.
"People with autism want to go to the store, to a restaurant, to a baseball game," said Larry Cancro, Red Sox senior vice president of Fenway Affairs. His daughter, Lisa, was diagnosed with autism as a youth, and he played a key role in making this initiative happen. "A family wants to live their life like every other typical family. The fact that MLB is trying to learn how they can accommodate families with this better, because it's a massive number, it means they're trying to reach people who, to date, have not been able to come out to the ballpark."
For more information about MLB Autism Awareness and to check on respective club dates for promoting the initiative, please visit MLBCommunity.org.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.