MLB, union to support youth baseball initiative

CINCINNATI — While officials were hopeful that a series of severe thunderstorms that hit this area Monday would not interfere with the Home Run Derby at night on the eve of the All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, Major League Baseball in conjunction with the Major League Players Association announced plans to allocate $30 million towards a youth baseball and softball initiative throughout North America entitled “Play Ball.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement at Monday’s press conference at which American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals and National League manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants announced their starting lineups, including pitchers Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

“Accessibility is an essential step toward not only strengthening the connection with fan, but also developing talent at the amateur level,” Manfred said. “Through initiatives like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, the MLB Urban Youth Academies and the Breakthrough Series, Major League Baseball has provided opportunities for thousands of young people to play the game and showcase their skills. This joint commitment with the MLBPA and its current and former members is a significant step toward expanding our focus on ensuring the future growth and prosperity of our sport.”

The commissioner also singled out Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Harlem RBI youth program in New York. Teixeira, a member of the AL All-Star team along with teammates Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances, attended the new conference with fellow All-Stars Chris Archer of the Rays, David Price of the Tigers, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates.

MLB and the PA will also create a 501(c)(3) organization to accept donations from players, clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs. One of the first major programs under the initiative will be the first Elite Development Invitational, operated by USA Baseball, July 18-30 at the old Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach, Fla. Approximately 150 players, ages 13-16, will participate in the two-week program that will provide player development opportunities to top prospects from minority or underserved backgrounds.

“For as long as the game has been played, generations of major leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth,” PA executive director Tony Clark said. “Many current and former players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers but also help excite the next generation of fans. This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, players have long known that reseeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community. Today’s announcement is great news to all players, and we look forward to working with Major League Baseball to make serious strides to ensure that every kid in the United States and Canada who wants to play baseball has an equal opportunity to do so.”

Two Yankees farmhands made contributions in Sunday’s Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game. Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Aaron Judge, the designated hitter for the U.S. Team, had 1-for-4 and scored a run in its 10-1 victory over the World Team. Double A Trenton catcher Gary Sanchez started behind the plate for the World Team and had a double in two at-bats.

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