Major League Baseball brought more than just the All-Star Game to Washington, DC, this summer. It also brought a wide range of initiatives designed to positively impact the lives of youth and individuals, including those in the local black and Latino communities. And while the All-Star Game itself had to end, the impact of the game and the opportunities it brought did not.
A new event for the 2018 All-Star Game was the Commissioner’s Cup (baseball) and Jennie Finch Classic (softball) tournaments. A total of 19 teams, with 276 young athletes and 38 coaches from MLB Youth Academies all over the country participating, competed in the two tournaments at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, George Washington University (Finch Classic) and Gallaudet University (Commissioner’s Cup). Throughout the week, the players also visited PLAY BALL Park, the epicenter of youth outreach during the ASG. More than 38,000 fans visited PLAY BALL Park, which also hosted appearances by cast of the movie “Sandlot,” Commissioner Rob Manfred, Hall of Famer Cal. Ripken, Jr., former Red Sox star David Ortiz, Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, softball legend Jennie Finch, rapper and Washington D.C. native Wale as well as many of the future stars of baseball slated to play in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday. Beyond the field of play, MLB and the Nationals committed more than $5 million to national charities and local “All-Star Legacy” projects that renovated baseball fields, facilities and teen centers for youth to dream, play and grow.
After a fun-filled summer of youth activities and community outreach, the Nationals and MLB are making sure that these opportunities for the children of Washington D.C. will continue well into the future.
Parents in Greater Washington who are interested in signing their children up for baseball or softball can check out the local RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) programs – the DC Grays (www.dcgrays.com), or the Prince George’s County Boys and Girls club (www.pgcbgc.com/baseball). There’s also the fantastic Nationals Youth Academy (http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youth-baseball-academy). Located about five miles from Nationals Park, the Academy was created to use baseball and softball as vehicle to foster positive character development, academic achievement and improved health among youth from underserved communities in the nation’s capital. The organization hosts events and programs that help children learn important lessons both on and off the field.
For young children, it’s important to focus on learning while incorporating play. The Academy has created that perfect blend in its development program “Books and Baseball” that’s held every Monday evening for 3-5 year olds. Local DC Public Librarians read a sports-themed story book before the kids learn more about the game by participating in a baseball skills clinic.
The Academy does its part to make the sport more accessible to girls throughout the country in the D.C. area by hosting free softball clinics each Thursday evening for a wide range of ages and skillsets. While there are professional coaches on hand, local university softball players often come out to create an engaging experience for the young athletes.
Another option for children ages 6-12 is to participate in The Academy’s high-quality, structured, year-round development baseball/softball leagues known as YBA PLAY on Monday evenings. The program mixes instruction with life lessons and positivity and is highlighted by a summer league between June and August.
While Major League Baseball continues to impact the younger generations, it’s also aiming to incorporate a diverse and inclusive meritocracy throughout the culture of baseball. In order to strengthen the industry as a whole, MLB has created talent acquisition and professional development initiatives for the League and Clubs including Virtual Interview Day (www.mlb.com/vid), Diversity Pipeline Program, MLB Diversity Fellowship Program, and Company Business Resource Groups. More information regarding these programs and potential career opportunities in Baseball can be found at www.mlb.com/careers.
In its 20th year, MLB’s Diverse Business Partners Program is designed to cultivate new and existing supply chain partnerships with diverse businesses. For more information regarding the MLB Diverse Business Partners Program, and to do business with MLB and Clubs, visit www.mlb.com/dbp.
The new activations of MLB Assembly and Diversity and Inclusion Culture + Code during All-Star Week helped double the annual amount spent with diverse suppliers for the All-Star break in D.C., spending approximately $2 million. MLB Assembly drew more than 12,000 visitors to see one of the 22 live music performances (including Wale, DJ Jazzy Jeff and BlocBoy JB), four live art performances (No Kings Collective, JD Deardourff, Futura X Stash and Skyler Grey). Culture + Code brought a variety of influential voices to explore areas of fashion, music, technology and entrepreneurship and how they intersect with sports, all through the lens of diversity and inclusion. Ever-present at one of the panels was Bob Kendrick, the President of the Negro League Baseball Museum, who proudly discussed the Negro Leagues legacy that was commemorated earlier in the week as MLB unveiled a mural honoring Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Josh Gibson on the Lincoln Theater.
Each Major League season will continue to come and go, but the bigger impact that Major League Baseball continues to make on youth and minorities throughout the community will forever remain a constant. Through these initiatives, and more, it is abundantly clear that the National Pastime is stepping up its game and looking to attract more people from diverse backgrounds to play, work for, and do business with the sport of baseball.