MLB, clubs put relief efforts in motion

MLB, clubs put relief efforts in motion

As the pictures of a devastated Gulf Coast and a flooded New Orleans burnt lasting images into the minds of Americans, Major League Baseball and its clubs began to step up relief efforts for the many survivors and people displaced by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

The Astrodome, once the home of the Houston Astros, became the destination for thousands of refugees traveling by bus the more than 300 miles from the ravaged Superdome.

MLB has launched a relief plan that provides resources and coordinates the efforts of its clubs, the players, its business partners, employees and fans, Commissioner Bud Selig announced Thursday. The first phase of the program is a $1 million joint donation by MLB and the Players Association to the American Red Cross. Overall, MLB's relief plan is expected to generate more than $3 million in aid for the hurricane victims.

Elements of the program include:

• On Sept. 7, which Major League Baseball celebrates as Roberto Clemente Day throughout baseball, all 15 home clubs will pass the hat among fans to collect funds for the Red Cross relief effort. Major League Baseball will match up to $1 million that is collected that day.

• Players on Sept. 7 will wear a Red Cross patch, emblematic of the relief effort, and the Red Cross logo along with the telephone number to call in donations will appear on the sides of the bases.

• The 15 visiting clubs on Sept. 7 will host relief collection efforts on days of their choosing.

• Through the end of the season, will donate $1 to the relief effort for every purchase made at the Shop.

• Major League Baseball and its partners, Anheuser-Busch, Wheaties, DHL, Chevrolet, Taco Bell and Bank of America, will contribute electronic home plate signage to help promote the hurricane relief effort.

Meanwhile, several Major League teams began their own drives to help the victims.

At Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, the Dodgers and the American Red Cross began to collect clothes, non-perishable food items and funds to send to the hurricane-torn areas, where many people won't be able to return home for months. Cars started lining up outside the main parking gates at 5 a.m. PT.

"There has just been an amazing amount of support from the Los Angeles community to show support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina," said Red Cross spokesman Nicholas Samaniego. "So far this morning, we've have had two events in this area that have raised in excess of $200,000 -- and we're still going strong."

Those who wish to donate to the American Red Cross can visit the Red Cross Web site or call 1-800-HELP-NOW. Other organizations are also accepting donations online.

The Reds, Astros, Marlins, Pirates, Mariners, Royals, Rangers, Twins and A's have announced that similar drives have been put into motion, and the Yankees are donating $1 milllion to the relief effort, George Steinbrenner said in a statement released by the club.

The Major League schedule was not really affected by the storm, which packed 125-mph winds when it roared across the Gulf Coast on Monday. A game on Monday in Atlanta between the Nationals and Braves was postponed because of rain and wind, and the Tigers-Indians game on Tuesday in Cleveland was postponed because of heavy rains that ensued as the storm traveled north.

The Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs canceled their last three home games. The team plays at Zephyr Field -- only miles from the Superdome, which is home to the NFL's New Orleans Saints and Tulane football. Thousands of New Orleans residents took refuge in the Superdome and were forced to live in deteriorating conditions after the storm punched a pair of holes in its roof.

When levees and floodwalls holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain burst on Tuesday, flooding the city, the decision was made to move everyone stranded in the facility to Houston.

"I think [housing people in the Astrodome is] a great thing," said Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who played his first game as a rookie in the Astrodome in 1988. "You've got a building just sitting there and nobody's using it, and you've got 25,000 people without a home. I applaud our city for welcoming as many people as we can get away from there and helping them out. It's really a great thing."

According to Atlanta Braves assistant general manager Dayton Moore, there's a good chance that the Double-A Mississippi Braves, who are based in Jackson, Miss., won't play another home game this season. The Mississippi Braves were scheduled to host the Carolina Mudcats in a season-ending four-game series beginning Friday.

Some former and current MLB players who hail from the area were thankful that no one in their families was hurt.

Hurricane Katrina relief
If you would like to donate to those in need as a result of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many organizations have set up online donation forms.
American Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW
Americares: 1-800-486-HELP
America's Second Harvest: 1-800-771-2303
Plan USA: 1-800-556-7918
Salvation Army: 1-800-SAL-ARMY
United Way of the New Orleans Area
Volunteers of America: 1-800-899-0089

Will Clark, a first baseman who played for the Giants, Cardinals, Rangers and Orioles and who currently lives in New Orleans, evacuated the city with his family and was spared the onslaught and flooding. Clark now does some coaching for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which are run by Jeff Moorad, Clark's former agent.

"He's safe, but he doesn't know if he's going to have a place to come home to," Moorad said on Wednesday through a team spokesman.

A's infield coach Ron Washington spends his offseasons in New Orleans. He and his wife, Geraldine, own a house there, and it has been deluged by the surging waters. As of now, Washington doesn't know if he'll ever be able to go home again.

"I have a friend at FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], and I gave him my address so he could take a satellite picture of the area for me," Washington said. "He called back and said my [house] is under water. I don't have a home to go to when the season ends."

Red Sox rookie pitcher Jon Papelbon was born in Baton Rouge, La., went to college at Mississippi State and has several relatives who live in the Mississippi-Louisiana area. Papelbon said before Wednesday night's game against the Devil Rays that his family had been spared any loss of life.

Early estimates of those who perished in the region range from the hundreds into the thousands and probably won't be known for months until the water is pumped out of the New Orleans basin, which is below sea level.

"We didn't have anybody lost in the family," Papelbon said. "My godmother lost her house and cars and boat and everything else, but that's about as bad as we got. Everybody else pretty much made it out. They all evacuated. Some went to Jacksonville, Fla., and joined my parents where they live, most of them."

Tampa Bay pitcher Tim Corcoran went through some anxious days while his girlfriend, Dana Jackson, rode out the hurricane at her parents' home in Covington, La., on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

On Wednesday morning, he received a text message from her saying that she was safe and sound. They spoke later in the day.

"All the trees were down, and there was no way out of the neighborhood," Corcoran said. "They finally moved a couple of trees away and pushed them over in a ditch so everybody could get out. She got out and drove to my sister's house in Slaughter and called me from there."

Florida center fielder Juan Pierre is a native of Alexandria, La., a town of 46,000 about 190 miles northwest of New Orleans. Pierre said that he has had a helpless feeling watching the round-the-clock coverage on television and the growing magnitude of the destruction, although his parents' home wasn't damaged by the storm.

"It's sad," said Pierre before the Marlins' game on Wednesday. "I rode down those streets, going to the Superdome a lot as a kid and an adult and I can't imagine it. It's hard. It hits close to home."

Padres pitcher Jake Peavy, an Alabama native, said his family was safe even though they reside in a city that borders the hard-hit Mobile, Ala.

Though his family was spared the brunt of the devastation, power is out in the town and they've had to turn their playroom into a mini-shelter where a generator keeps the air conditioner running. The storm blew off all the screens protecting the house's windows, Peavy said.

"We've got pretty much the whole family in there, about eight or 10 people," Peavy said Wednesday. "Everybody's safe, but there's some pretty good damage to some buildings around there, I know that much."

The Dodgers had some good and bad news about personnel affected by the storm.

Catcher Paul Bako, recovering from knee surgery at his Lafayette, La., home -- some 135 miles west of New Orleans -- text-messaged several teammates and club officials to report that his area had suffered minimal damage.

But amateur scout Dennis Moeller was not as fortunate. Though Moeller, who pitched briefly in the Major Leagues with Kansas City and Pittsburgh, was safe, his home in Slidell, La., was destroyed.

Slidell, which is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, was almost completely decimated by the storm.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB reporters Ben Platt, Ian Browne, Mark Feinsand, Mychael Urban, Jeff Frisaro, Bill Chastain, John Schlegel, Ken Gurnick, Jim Molony and Mark Bowman contributed. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.