Padres, MLB host veterans transition event

Former San Diego outfielder Finley participates at NVTS facility

Padres, MLB host veterans transition event

SAN DIEGO -- Steve Finley played nearly two full decades with eight teams in Major League Baseball, including the entire National League West. He went to All-Star Games in 1997 and 2000, helped San Diego to a World Series in '98 and then won a ring in '01 with Arizona. He racked up 2,548 hits in regular-season play, including an unforgettable grand slam that won the division for the Dodgers in the final weekend of the '04 season.

And after all of that, Finley was at a loss for what to do with his life.

"I was used to the baseball schedule, and then all of a sudden it was gone," Finley said. "Snap your fingers and it's difficult to reintegrate. I found myself spinning wheels for a couple years, not sure what I wanted to do, if I wanted to do anything. I finally got back into business. It took a long time with a lot of people helping me."

Today, the former outfielder helps others make career transitions. He is one of 80 advisors for Morgan Stanley's global sports and entertainment division, advising athletes how to invest their money and avoiding pitfalls after retirement (in addition to commentary for FOX Sports San Diego and some on-field coaching for the Padres at Spring Training).

Finley on his role this spring

On Friday morning, Finley was part of an All-Star Legacy event hosted by Major League Baseball and the Padres at the National Veterans Transition Services facility in San Diego. NVTS is dedicated to assisting veterans in adjusting to civilian life and securing meaningful employment. The organization was established by a group of retired high-ranking Naval and Marine Corps officers and workforce development professionals.

As part of the ongoing and widespread community initiative here at All-Star Week, MLB and the Padres provided NVTS with better technology and a more efficiently-designed workspace in order to provide improved services, including resume writing, personal and professional transition assistance and evaluating and improving online presences.

"San Diego and the military go hand-in-hand -- they always have," Finley said. "I remember Military Sundays. You used to get goosebumps as an opposing player coming in, seeing the military march up and having the different branches chant back and forth with each other. That relationship just continues to grow, and with the All-Star Game here, and the legacy event, this was the perfect organization to help. This really helps these veterans come back from combat or wherever they are in the military and reintegrate into being a civilian. It's not always easy.

"These things are so important for the military, because they're coming back from Afghanistan, Iraq -- wherever they are, off on a destroyer or aircraft carrier out in the ocean and in harm's way. Having to reintegrate is not an easy thing. I can't relate to what they go through, but there are definitely a lot of similarities and having this organization there to help them gives you a leg up on getting back into everyday life."

Dignitaries at the event also include former Padres infielder Archi Cianfrocco; MLB chief operating officer Tony Petitti; Padres senior vice president of community and military affairs Tom Seidler; executive director of National Veterans Transition Services, Inc., Maurice Wilson; and emcee and Padres multimedia analyst Bob Scanlan.

One of the highlights was when Angie Lester spoke about her own experiences. She is one of more than 1,500 veterans who have successfully gone through the transition with the program's assistance, in her case an all-female class. Last month she earned her Master's degree, and she is now "completing the process to become a sheriff for San Diego."

"We see the ballplayers when their careers end, sometimes that's a tough transition," Seidler said. "Obviously for the military it's a much deeper commitment they do, in their first career with the military, and it's the least we can do to help those people go back into society."

Petitti said MLB is "especially proud of our connection to the military" and he cited what happened just a few days earlier, when MLB became the first professional sports league to stage a regular season game on a military base. The field for that Fort Bragg game on Independence Day was built from scratch and left for members on the base to use.

Fort Bragg hosts historic game

"We could think of no better way to honor the services provided by our military veterans than giving them an opportunity to transition in a way that makes sense," Petitti said. "This type of organization fits in perfectly with what baseball believes in. We've been a huge supporter of Welcome Back Veterans, over $30 million donated over the last few years to that organization, so we can't think of a better organization than this."

For Finley, the official All-Star event was also an opportunity to wax nostalgic on his own past Midsummer Classic moments. At Turner Field in 2000, he managed an RBI single off the great Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth.

"I remember my at-bat prior to that, it was in the ['98] World Series," Finley said. "He blew me up about right here next to my hands. It was the first time I'd ever faced him. I had that memory in my head and I had to get that back. I was not going to let him beat me in the All-Star Game. I choked up about four inches and still got jammed, but I was able to squeak it out to center field."

The 87th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

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.