"Accessibility is an essential step toward not only strengthening the connection with fans, but also developing talent at the amateur level," said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. "Through initiatives like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, the MLB Urban Youth Academies and the Breakthrough Series, Major League Baseball has provided opportunities for thousands of young people to play the game and showcase their skills. This joint commitment with the MLBPA and its current and former members is a significant step toward expanding our focus on ensuring the future growth and prosperity of our sport."
"For as long as the game has been played, generations of Major Leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth," stated MLBPA Executive Director, Tony Clark. "Many current and former Players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers but also help excite the next generation of fans. This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, Players have long known that re-seeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community. Today's announcement is great news to all Players, and we look forward to working with Major League Baseball to make serious strides to ensure that every kid in the United States and Canada who wants to play baseball has an equal opportunity to do so."
As part of the new initiative, MLB and the MLBPA will create a 501(c)(3) organization that will accept donations from players, Clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs designed to grow the sport.
One of the first major programs supported by the initiative will be the first-ever Elite Development Invitational, operated by USA Baseball and held in Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL from July 18-30. Approximately 150 youth, ages 13-16, will participate in the two-week program geared toward providing elite player development opportunities to top prospects from minority or underserved backgrounds.
MLB and the MLBPA also partner and fund the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF), which is designed to promote the growth of youth baseball and softball throughout the world by awarding grants to support field renovation and construction projects, equipment and uniform purchases, coaches training material and other selected program expenses. BTF also facilitates league-wide initiatives including the collection and distribution of new and gently used equipment to organizations in need as well as field maintenance education clinics. Since its formation by MLB and the MLBPA in 1999, BTF has awarded approximately 800 grants, totaling more than $27 million, to non-profit and tax-exempt organizations in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and Asia.
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CONTACT: Michael Teevan or Steven Arocho, MLB, (212) 931-7878, mlbpressbox.com, @MLB_PR;
Greg Bouris, Major League Baseball Players Association, (212) 826-0808