PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. -- Baseball business took a back seat to personal welfare issues in the year's first joint meeting of MLB club owners here Thursday morning. At the three hours-plus session also attended for the first time by the game's general managers, Commissioner Bud Selig announced an immediate $1 million pledge to UNICEF for Haiti earthquake relief and attendees heard an emotional presentation by Stand Up To Cancer. Club owners also listened to presentations by George Will and MLB vice president of finance Jonathan Mariner, on economics, MLB Network president CEO Tony Petitti, on the MLBN's first year, and discussed some amendments to current non-playing rules.
However, the prevailing tone of the session unequivocally was "outreach." Besides the devastation in Haiti, the topic that most got to the baseball audience clearly was the latest presentation by Stand Up To Cancer, a project to which MLB has been committed since its launch in 2008. "It was very emotional. I'm proud of our association with them," said Commissioner Selig. "I've been coming to these meetings for 40 years, and I don't think I've ever seen more emotion in that room. "They told their stories of what they have done, one after another, and I don't think there was a dry eye in the house. They have a dream team of phenomenal doctors doing tremendous work, and raising a lot of money to help in the future." On the baseball side, the continuing challenges and hurdles posed by a troubled economy dominated the proceedings, although afterward, the Commissioner downplayed the time spent discussing those issues. Asked about the economic forecasts presented to the owners, Selig said, "It's too early. It's January 14 ... but clubs seem to be doing OK." A year ago, mere months after the lowest point of the recession, the game approached Spring Training under a dark financial cloud. Asked to compare the current economic mood, Commissioner Selig said it was "at the same level ... maybe a little better." "Look," he added, "you can't even get economists to agree on how things are. I'm optimistic by nature; I think we'll do okay." Petitti's presentation was well-received, reflecting the strides made by the MLB Network, which is 13 days into its second year on the air. "The Network's first year was excellent, to say the least," Commissioner Selig said. The inclusion of general managers in the joint meeting continued the precedent-setting nature of these Owners' Meetings. Reflecting the reception of individual owners and GMs, Selig was very enthusiastic about how his latest innovation worked out. "They are a very integral part of baseball," the Commissioner said of the general managers, "and the proper question is, 'Why shouldn't they be involved?' And they should be, and I expect to do this with great repetition. "Our next meetings are in May [in New York], and I think they will be there, too. It was terrific having them here. They had great input that will help us in various areas. "[Their participation] was long overdue. This was history in the making, and will be repeated over and over again."