MLB, community pitch in with initiatives like Play Ball
By Mark Newman
Thanks for playing ball in 2015.
Not just you, the elite athletes who entertained us from Spring Training through the final pitch at the very start of this month at Citi Field. On this Thanksgiving, it is time to also thank everyone around Major League Baseball and in our communities for jumping on the new Play Ball bandwagon and an overall spirit of grassroots community involvement.
Thanks to 1,058 kids from ages 8-18 who set the Guinness World Record for the Largest Game of Catch during All-Star Week at the P&G Reds Urban Youth Academy in Cincinnati. Thanks to players past and present who got involved from coast to coast at one event after another, and to parents and coaches who make it possible.
Thanks to 125 U.S. mayors who led designated Play Ball Cities toward the diamonds for any type of baseball and softball activity during Play Ball Month in August, in support of Commissioner Rob Manfred's initiative to get young people into the sport as a healthy lifestyle.
"Mayors are pleased to join Major League Baseball in bringing fun baseball and softball activities to our cities," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the U.S. Conference of Mayors president whose own community went through so much this summer in a time of social change. "I am proud to have already participated in a Play Ball event in my community and look forward to hearing how other mayors across the country celebrate baseball -- our Great National Pastime."
Tom Brasuell, MLB's vice president of community affairs and a familiar face at seemingly every league-wide community event for many years now, said of the overall mission: "Commissioner Manfred and Major League Baseball recognize that we have a responsibility to give back. We are proud of the enthusiastic commitment our clubs, players and fans make to communities, making a difference in the lives of so many children and families."
Thanks for a collective community effort throughout the 111th World Series, where the Royals-Mets series also left an indelible legacy off the field with key causes. For example, thanks to a Citi Field-record crowd of 44,781 for standing up during Game 3 to raise awareness for Stand Up To Cancer, and for community leadership of players like David Wright and Andrew McCutchen. Wright stood on the field alongside two Make-A-Wish children during that SU2C moment.
Thanks to Andrew McCutchen for tirelessly making a difference in the community. Early on the morning after he accepted the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet, the Pirates' All-Star center fielder was on a youth field meeting with hundreds of young boys and girls from Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) to teach them not just baseball skills, but life skills as well. A day earlier, he was at Sloan-Kettering Memorial, spending time with a young man who was about to undergo a bone-marrow transplant in the next hour in hopes of an extended life. These were just two things that happened with people watching, and anyone who knows Cutch can tell you he is more comfortable helping others away from the cameras.
"All that matters is that you're doing your job and helping people and helping those who can't help themselves," McCutchen said.
Thanks to three charitable organizations that lent assistance to the neediest victims of devastating flooding last month in South Carolina: The Red Cross of South Carolina, Harvest Hope Food Bank and NewSpring Church. MLB and the MLB Players Association jointly contributed $250,000 to be divided among those three groups.
While fans in Kansas City are still thanking their team for a first World Series title in 30 years, considerable thanks also must go to the champions' year-long community impact. For example, in September, general manager Dayton Moore and Kansas City officials announced an ambitious $14 million project to create a Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy near the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Moore, founder of the C You in the Major Leagues foundation, and the Royals raised $6.5 million to help launch the first phase of the Urban Youth Academy project.
Thanks to the Rangers for just announcing one of those in their community as well.
Thanks to Yankees catcher Brian McCann and his wife Ashley, who are proudly involved with the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research, a non-profit organization based in Atlanta that has been raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. McCann hit a career-high 26 home runs this season, and as a result, he raised more than $30,000 for the cause -- thanks to pledges of more than $1,160 per home run from fans.
In celebration of this year's Season of the #Whiff campaign, Head & Shoulders presented $384,987 to the RBI program. Throughout the season, Head & Shoulders donated $1 for every strikeout across the league. There was a lot of that going around in 2015.
Thanks to all of our military veterans, and to Welcome Back Veterans for lending a hand to returning military members and their families.
Thanks to all those who are helping others in need during this Thanksgiving season. Members of the Orioles' front office recently volunteered at the Maryland Food Bank's annual "Pack to Give Back" event, where they helped pack more than 15,000 holiday boxes for distribution to families in need. And thanks to Marlins employees, who, in partnership with Feeding South Florida, donated 1,000 turkeys, fixings and desserts to pre-selected, local families.
"I'm here in Miami. I live here now," said Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, one of those participants. "I'm not too far away. It's something where I can talk to people a little bit and interact, because I enjoy doing this. It's fun."
These are among countless examples. Thanks to all clubs whose steady involvement in their community can in no way be fully captured in a single Thanksgiving story, and to all those citizens who collaborate in important ways.
The inherent need by clubs and players to give back to their communities may be best summed up by Phillies vice president of communications Bonnie Clark.
"It's simply the right thing to do," she said. "One of the greatest benefits of being part of this organization is the opportunity to positively impact someone's life. However large or small the gesture is, the feeling of knowing that you've impacted another life is the reward itself."
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.