MLB and MLBPA announce several advancements in joint youth effort

Appoint Hall of Fame Electee Ken Griffey Jr. as Youth Ambassador

Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) today announced several advancements in their joint effort to grow youth baseball and softball throughout the U.S. and Canada, including: (a) the appointment of Hall of Fame electee Ken Griffey Jr. as a youth ambassador; (b) financial contributions to youth baseball projects supported by New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and former All-Stars Marquis Grissom and John Franco; and (c) the creation of a partnership with Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) for the training of coaches and administrators from the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. All of the above components are supported by the jointly-funded $30 million MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, announced by MLB and the MLBPA during 2015 All-Star Week in Cincinnati.

 "Expanding the availability of our great game, particularly to youth from underserved areas, remains a central focus for Major League Baseball and our Clubs," said Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. "In order to advance the growth of the game, it is important that we continue supporting programs that provide opportunities and quality experiences for young people, that ensure youth coaches and league administrators are properly trained, and that have individuals who played the sport at its highest level serve as role models. I am delighted that we are accomplishing all three in our ongoing joint effort with the Players Association, especially welcoming Ken Griffey Jr. -- one of the most influential players of his generation -- as a youth ambassador."

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark stated: "As today's announcement illustrates, Players, past and present, remain dedicated and committed to sharing the game they love with others, especially minority youth and youth from communities with limited access to baseball fields and proper instruction. With that in mind, it gives us all great satisfaction that by working together -- Players, the MLBPA and MLB -- we can affect positive change in these communities by supporting efforts that improve access to baseball at the grassroots level. These contributions and partnerships are just the beginning, as we are dedicated to creating a constant ripple that turns into a tidal wave of support for those who want to join with us in growing interest in the great game of baseball."

In his role as Youth Ambassador, Griffey will serve as an advisor and central spokesman for a variety of baseball and softball initiatives from MLB and the MLBPA. Additional duties will include shooting special instructional and promotional videos for these efforts and attending special events, including camps, clinics and tournaments. Scheduled appearances for the 2016 season include All-Star Week, the second annual Elite Development Invitational (July 2016 at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL), the RBI World Series in Cincinnati, OH and the 2016 World Series.

Griffey said: "I'm excited to be joining the Players Association and Major League Baseball as Youth Ambassador, and I look forward to using my passion for the game to help inspire and encourage children to play baseball. I have loved the sport for as long as I can remember because it's fun to play, and I'm going to do my best to share that with kids."

MLB and the MLBPA are donating nearly $2 million to several youth-focused initiatives supported by current and former Major League players, including the following: New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson for the operations of the Chicago Baseball Academy at Curtis Granderson Stadium at University of Chicago -- Illinois, which provides baseball programming and educational support for underprivileged kids in Curtis's hometown of Chicago; toward the Marquis Grissom Baseball Association, Inc., an Atlanta-based non-profit organization that provides athletes in underserved communities the opportunity to compete in a competitive baseball league; and in support of the annual "Borough Cup" in New York City, which is operated by John Franco's NYC All-Star Sports Group. Additionally, the Foundation has committed funds to the Brooklyn Bonnies Youth Club, a year-round, sandlot youth program that uses baseball as a vehicle to guide student-athletes to success in high school and college and develops youth into outstanding adults.

Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), a national non-profit developing "Better Athletes, Better People" through youth and high school sports, has started delivering its Double-Goal Coach® workshops to Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) coaches. The program explains why and how to pursue winning and using sports to teach life lessons to youth. PCA also is providing its workshop, titled "Leading Your Organization: Developing a Positive Coaching Culture," to RBI local administrators. The partnership between PCA and MLB/MLBPA will set out to train and certify every RBI coach as a Double-Goal Coach over the next three years. The partnership also includes PCA workshops for other Youth Baseball entities including USA Baseball and the National Youth Baseball Championship, among others yet to be announced. Granderson is a National Advisory Board Member for PCA.

In July 2015, MLB and the MLBPA announced this joint initiative with a $30 million commitment to improve the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada. Additionally, the initiative aims to enhance the quality of baseball & softball education, address overall youth participation in baseball and softball and help youth, including those from underserved communities, strengthen connections to the game.

Significant progress has been made in less than a year, through the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, which was created as a 501(c)(3) organization that can accept donations from players, Clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs designed to grow the sport.

In July 2015, MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball hosted the inaugural Elite Development Invitational at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, FL for approximately 160 minority and underserved youth, ages 12-17. The young ballplayers participated in a two-week program in a Spring Training environment that was geared toward providing elite training experiences and development opportunities. More than 30 former professional players, including Jerry Manuel, Maury Wills, Tom "Flash" Gordon, Lee Smith, Marquis Grissom and Endy Chavez, served as instructors. Commissioner Manfred, MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds, Dusty Baker and Hall of Famer & MLBPA Advisory to the Executive Director Dave Winfield stopped by to share their knowledge and experiences as well. The 2016 Elite Development Invitational is scheduled for this July.

In 2015, the MLBPA and MLB also launched the "Players Going Home" program, which allowed several Players to demonstrate their gratitude and appreciation to organizations that have helped them along their path to Major League success, as well as offer assistance to organizations making a difference in young lives throughout the country. Through this unique program, five players -- Curtis Granderson, Felix Hernandez, Andrew McCutchen, CC Sabathia and Mike Trout -- distributed $100,000 each to local and national non-profit organizations whose work is based either in their hometowns or the places they now call home. Organizations that benefited from this included local Little Leagues, RBI programs, Babe Ruth programs, Boys & Girls clubs, children's hospitals and national foundations to support local non-profits and other local town & school boards.

Additional announcements regarding the allocation of funding in support of this joint effort are expected as programs are identified and developed.