Reds Hall of Fame hosts MLBPAA event

Alumni Association brings together former big leaguers

CINCINNATI -- Sitting around the theater in the Reds Hall of Fame Friday evening was a group of more than 20 former Major League players.

There were former Reds -- Brian Dorsett, Tom Kramer, Jeff Schultz and Larry Luebbers, to name a few. Former Royals were well represented, too, with Steve Jones, Josh Newman and Steve Sisco all in attendance. There was even Pat Underwood, the Tigers' winning pitcher the night of the infamous Disco Demolition game.

While the room had a combined 286 wins and 85 saves, most of the players in attendance weren't names that immediately come to mind when thinking of their respective franchises or eras. Many of them had never met, nor had they played against each other before. But that's what the MLB Players' Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is all about -- creating a fraternity among the contingent of around 9,000 living former Major League players.

"The key, when we do these, is to get the guys together. The alumni is the fraternity," Geoff Hixson, chief operating officer of the MLBPAA, said. "Every time you go out, it's bring [them] together, tell old stories and see each other, because a lot of times the alumni [association] is their conduit to do that."

Friday's event was the organization's third of its kind this season. Earlier this week, it held one during the All-Star festivities in San Diego, and there will be 12 more this year.

The events are also designed to inform the players about the benefits they can receive as former Major Leaguers and give them a chance to get out to the ballpark, one of the most frequently made requests among the organization's nearly 8,000 members.

"They're alumni, so today we'll talk about all the good things going on in our office that relate to them," Hixson said. "The Alumni Association provides a huge list of benefits as being part of the organization. Discounts here and there, opportunities to come together as such, like we're doing tonight."

The MLBPAA also tries to help players ease into life after they leave the game. It has a channel through which players can advertise their own businesses, and it offers a career transition program that is free for players who have exited in the last six years and available to all members.

Aside from benefiting the players, the MLBPAA also invests a lot of its resources in raising money and getting youth involved in baseball. It has hosted 151 free children's clinics and 67 fundraising events and involves the players heavily in these efforts.

"We invite them to our fundraising events in the areas, and we've raised over $45 million for charities doing golf tournaments, poker tournaments, dinners," Hixson said. "Any time we come out to their area, we invite them to come out and help us do what we do."

None of this is possible without the large body of players, which also includes "about 99 percent" of active players. While the MLBPAA is happy with having around 8,000 of 9,000 eligible members, they still actively seek out those last 1,000 people.

While that can be hard, especially for players who live outside of the country, events like this can help track down currently unrepresented players.

"That's another part of the benefit of doing this," Hixson said. "Each one of the guys, when they get their packet, has a list of guys in there that we have lost, and who knows those guys, because we need to get them plugged in."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.