Major League Baseball and Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig have named the Toronto Blue Jays as the 2012 recipient of the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence, which was created in 2010 to annually recognize an extraordinary charitable and philanthropic effort of an MLB Club. The Blue Jays are being honored for the “Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy,” a series of initiatives to help support youth across Canada and provide them with opportunities on and off the field of play. The Jays Care Foundation, the official charity of the Toronto Blue Jays, will receive a $10,000 grant from Major League Baseball as part of this recognition.
“The Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy program embodies the franchise’s significant investment in the young people of Canada,” Commissioner Selig said. “The determination of the Blue Jays to provide thousands of children with the tools to succeed in baseball and in life has made a remarkable difference in not just Toronto but in many other communities as well, and Canadians should take great pride in their country’s Major League Baseball team. I commend the Blue Jays and all of our Clubs for embracing the game’s essential social responsibilities and making a positive impact in their respective communities year after year.”
“We are honoured to receive the Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence,” said Paul Beeston, President and CEO, Toronto Blue Jays. “We made an organizational decision several years ago to reach out to communities not just in Toronto but all across the country, as we recognized our responsibilities as Canada’s only Major League team. The support we have received from all provinces has been overwhelming and it was imperative that our programs reflected that passion. The creation of the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy, combined with the tremendous efforts of the Jays Care Foundation, has had a significant impact on the youth of the nation. We are very proud of this recognition and it speaks volumes to the efforts of many in our organization and our key partners, including Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, Baseball Canada and Little League Canada. Together we have truly made a positive impact in our communities across Canada.”
The Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy orchestrates a series of initiatives that support young people by encouraging physical activity through baseball while also providing programs that offer important resources and help develop essential life skills. Rookie League is a youth baseball program that is part of Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and is operated by the Jays Care Foundation. It serves more than 3,500 young people across Canada, including more than 1,200 inner-city youth in 44 Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods, providing access to baseball for children who would not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in organized sport. Rookie League provides participants with increased access and opportunities for physical activity, baseball and life skills education, baseball equipment, healthy lunches and back-to-school supplies. It also offers full-time, paid employment to 100 youth from the Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods to serve as “Rookie League Youth Champions,” where they help coach and mentor young children throughout the summer. Through the Field of Dreams program, funding has been provided to charitable and community groups across Canada to help refurbish baseball fields, build safe youth spaces and support recreational programs through equipment donations. To date, Jays Care has invested more than $3.5 million in 35 Field of Dreams legacy projects across Canada and $900,000 in 2012. In total, the Jays Care Foundation committed $1.9 million to community programs and grants in 2012. The Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Academy, in cooperation with Baseball Canada, also includes Super Camps and Instructional Clinics featuring Blue Jays alumni and staff in multiple cities and communities in every province across the country to help young people improve their skills on the field. In addition, the Blue Jays, in partnership with Baseball Canada and Little League Canada, have produced a public service announcement airing nationwide with several prominent Canadian players promoting participation in the game of baseball.
The Boston Red Sox were the recipients of the inaugural Commissioner’s Award for Philanthropic Excellence in 2010 for their “Red Sox Scholars” program, which is administered by the Red Sox Foundation and creates educational opportunities for inner-city youth. The Chicago White Sox won the award in 2011 for their “White Sox Volunteer Corps,” which is a unique initiative designed to activate the fan base with White Sox players, executives and staff in helping give back to the greater Chicago community through service.