Baseball Assistance Team aids those connected to the game in need
By Richard Justice
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Commissioner Rob Manfred and an assortment of Hall of Famers were present. So were current and former players, scouts and team executives.
They gathered on Tuesday evening at Salt River Fields to discuss and honor the Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.), which was founded in 1986 to help members of baseball's family in need.
Since then, B.A.T. has awarded $32 million in grants to more than 3,200 former players, scouts, umpires, coaches, executives and others once associated with the game.
The event was an opportunity to remind one another about the importance of giving and to spread the word that those who need help may be able to find it through B.A.T.
Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was presented the Frank Slocum Big Bat Award for his charitable work in a number of areas.
"This is such an honor," Peavy said. "It's what we're called to be. It's a platform we have. We're so blessed as players. It's about family. At the end of the day, that's all we have. This is our baseball family."
B.A.T. is financed, in part, by contributions from current and former players and by donations from several corporations. During last year's tour of spring camp, current players pledged more than $2.6 million.
"Baseball takes care of its own," said Buck Martinez, a Blue Jays broadcaster and former player. "We try to look around and make sure we can help out those who weren't as fortunate as those of us still involved in the game.
"We have to make people aware that we're here. That's a big void right now. So many people played a short period of time and don't think they're entitled to assistance. We want them to know we're here for them. We're trying to spread the word. We can help out and get you through tough times."
That was the note struck again and again: Please spread the word that B.A.T. can help.
"Everybody realizes that people, sometimes through no fault of their own, fall on hard times," Hall of Famer Robin Yount said. "When you're involved with a family like this one, it's our responsibility to take care of those people when you can."
B.A.T. president Randy Winn, who played 13 years in the Major Leagues, asked those in attendance to be "our eyes and ears."
"Help us find the people out there that need help," Winn said. "We're looking to help people."
In a 2014 interview, Joe Garagiola Sr. credited former Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and former players Joe Black, Ralph Branca, Robin Roberts, Slocum and himself for getting B.A.T. off the ground.
"We had nothing when we started," Garagiola said. "We used to meet in a room at NBC or at the baseball office. All we needed was just a little bit of a shove, and Joe Black was great.
"He calls me and says, 'We're going to go to Los Angeles. We've got to talk to this lady.' We sat on our couch holding her hands. This poor lady couldn't pay her rent, and they were going to evict her. We made sure she stayed in the house.
"The guys that belong to B.A.T., it [comes] right from the heart. I'm very proud to be part of it."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.