MLB's giving spirit stands out for holidays

MLB's giving spirit stands out for holidays

Thanks to the Cubs and Indians for Game 7 of the World Series, to all those award winners who were just recognized for their hard work, to San Diego for a sunny and satisfying All-Star Week, to David Ortiz for the best farewell season in history, to Vin Scully for every spoken word, to close plays at the plate, to the pitching masterpieces and the walk-offs and the humdrum blowouts alike over 162, to the family outings and the vendors and another 73 million-plus through the turnstiles.

Thanks also to Josh Tomlin and the Indians for serving dishes to people in need, to the Dodgers for donating 10,000 free turkeys to underserved families, to the Phillies for handing out 2,000 dinner baskets for 12,000 people citywide, to Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson and fellow Mets who distributed 25 full Thanksgiving meals and 700 turkeys, to A's general manager David Forst for serving Thanksgiving meals at a community center, to the Marlins for getting 1,000 turkeys into the right hands, to Yankees players for handing more than 2,500 food vouchers to Bronx residents this week and to all of the other clubs that have been doing much the same this week.

On this Thanksgiving weekend, there is much to be thankful for as a Major League Baseball fan, not just inside the park but outside of it as well. If you go to MLBcommunity.org and explore all the programs and community events, you will see examples year-round. There is a good chance that you are part of those unified initiatives in some way, just as the players are themselves, and in that case, thanks goes to you as well on this special day.

"Baseball is committed to making a difference year-round," said Tom Brasuell, MLB's vice president for community affairs. "Commissioner Rob Manfred, our clubs, current and former players and our fans are fully invested in improving the lives of children and families through our great game."

"When you put on a uniform, you hope to wear it as long as you can, but it becomes a platform for you to elevate and bring to light so many other things that are in life and are far more important than playing the game of baseball," said Hall of Famer John Smoltz, the MLB Network/FOX analyst. "So many guys have been able to utilize that as a platform and utilize their stance and notoriety to bring attention to their causes. There is a great opportunity for taking note of the guys who have been ambassadors of our game both on and off the field."

In 2016, MLB celebrated the 20th anniversaries of its partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life. Thanks to Sharon Robinson, Jackie's daughter and an MLB educational programming consultant, for always being there to see that more barriers are broken.

Thanks to MLB and the MLBPA's Baseball Tomorrow Fund, which awarded 74 grants totaling $2.7 million -- the largest amount in a single year since its inception in 2000. The total awarded by BTF since its inception now exceeds $32 million. Grants awarded in 2016 will serve youth players in at least 61 communities in 31 U.S. states and in three other countries.

Thanks for all the "yelling and screaming," as Granderson of the Mets laughingly calls it, at the hundreds of Play Ball events that are conducted year-round in North America. It is the Commissioner's mission to get kids playing all forms of the game, and Granderson said these events are not about mining for future ballplayers. "Whatever the activity happens to be," he said, "whether it's running, hitting, throwing, catching, you just want them to have a good time at the end of the day."

As everything coalesced around Play Ball in 2016, who could forget the inaugural Play Ball Weekend on May 14 and 15? An elevated step of the Play Ball initiative, it was a smashing success with the participation of each club and so many people in their communities.

Play Ball Weekend recap

While we're at it, thanks to mayors across America who held more than 205 Play Ball events in 2016. One of them, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, attended a World Series Game 4 Play Ball event in his city and applauded the effort of "investing and making sure another generation has a childhood, the experiences they need to grow up and do whatever they want, wherever their dreams take them."

Thanks to our veterans, who have sacrificed so much. The historic Fort Bragg game was one of the highlights of 2016.

If you stood up during the Stand Up To Cancer in-game moment during the Midsummer Classic and Game 4 of the World Series, you were certainly not alone. MLB has been a founding donor of Stand Up To Cancer since 2008, and thanks also to those who continue to donate to that cause during the fall TV roadblock event as well as the year-round activities featuring MLB clubs.

Thanks to the Phillies for their constant fight against ALS, raising more than $17 million since 1984 for patient care and services. It was the main reason they were presented last week with the MLB-wide Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence.

Phillies win Selig Award

"To receive this prestigious award is indeed an honor, and one that we dedicate to the patients and families who live with or have succumbed to this awful disease," Phillies chairman David Montgomery said. "The Phillies family is committed to putting an end to ALS. I would like to thank our players, Phillies wives, coaching and front-office staff, day-of-game employees, ownership, sponsors and especially our fans, who have joined us, and continue to join us, in the fight to end Lou Gehrig's Disease."

Hall of Famer Phil Niekro reminded us in his classic Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech at this month's MLB Players Alumni Association "Legends for Youth" Dinner that we should appreciate every moment, "because you never know how long we will be here." We are thankful for those words, and we are thankful to Billy Bean, MLB's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, for his tireless efforts traveling around the sport to spread a message of openness throughout the game.

Thanks to the Yankees' eighth annual HOPE Week success story, a community-impact trend-setter among clubs today. Thanks to the Brewers Community Foundation for their BCF Week, which raised $185,954 in May through daily activities, Ultimate Auction and a 50-50 Raffle.

Thanks to all clubs and the fans who increasingly go green to care for our environment.

Thanks to friends in Mexico, where MLB collaborated for the first time during an All-Star Week to leave a lasting legacy through the refurbishment of the Boys & Girls Club in Tijuana, along with the host Padres. The Commissioner was on hand during a whirlwind tour to help unveil four of the five new baseball surfaces left in the Greater San Diego area, part of a $5 million legacy initiative by MLB and the Padres to help that community.

That's 32 new fields over the last five years, and more than $75 million worth of goods and services left behind during All-Star events since 1997, when the legacy program began.

Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) reached even more young boys and girls in 2016, and though they don't ask for thanks, those involved in that MLB program deserve it richly.

Thanks to that little girl in the adapted wheelchair who made her device say "Go, Cubs, Go!" throughout the now-traditional Starlight Fun Center donation event that MLB and the Cubs held on the morning of World Series Game 3 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. It was a perfect symbol not only of Chicago's enthusiasm in its eventual champions, but also of how fortunate fans were to verbally sing "Go, Cubs, Go!" at each game. And of how fortunate we all are that a sport can bring such a smile to every life.

Thanks to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa for holding a mattress over his head … to help the Houston Children's Charity by taking part in the Mannequin Challenge. Thanks to all the other players whose efforts are best summarized by Tomlin's words at the turkey dinner.

"I feel like this community's given a lot to me over the course of my career being in the Indians organization," Tomlin said, "so for me to be able to give back and help them in a time of need, it's kind of a no-brainer for me." 

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. 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.