2017 Year In Review
MLBPA & Players take new strides in connecting with all those who play and love the game
The Major League Baseball Players Association had quite a year in 2017, on and off the field, as the union began its second 50 years of advancing and protecting players' rights.
Advancing players' interests took on exciting new forms in 2017 as Executive Director Tony Clark sought to broaden the player fraternity's reach by strengthening ties to the former player community, providing new and better platforms for active players to engage with fans and moving ahead with the vision of building a solid foundation to support and develop youth baseball around the world.
Among the year's highlights was the launch of Infield Chatter, a social media app that connects the players with their fans in a fun, moderated environment; the playing of the fourth and most successful World Baseball Classic tournament; the first-ever Players Weekend and the creation of new inroads into trying to secure the sport's future through a growing number of youth programs such as the “Players Going Home” initiative.
We hope you enjoy the below trip down memory lane…
- PLAYERS TRUST GATHERING KICKS OFF THE NEW YEAR
- ROOKIE CAREER DEVELOPMENT-AKA THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT
- SCHOLARSHIPS FOR FUTURE LABOR LEADERS - AKA THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT PART II
- SPRING IS IN THE AIR & MLBPA MAKES ITS ROUNDS | SPRING TRAINING 2017
- BIGGER & BETTER, THE WORLD BASEBALL CLASSIC PUTS BASEBALL ON INTERNATIONAL STAGE
- GIVING YOU THE 411 ON THE MEN WHO PLAY THE GAME | #MLBPLAYERS411
- SHINING A SPOTLIGHT ON THE JACKIE ROBINSON FOUNDATION
- PLAYERS CONNECT WITH FANS VIA INFIELD CHATTER
- PLAYERS SHINE A LIGHT ON HIGH SCHOOL "DIFFERENCE MAKERS"
- SHARING THE GAME WITH SPECIAL NEEDS KIDS
- WE WILL NEVER FORGET | $1 MILLION JOINT CONTRIBUTION TO THE NEGRO LEAGUES BASEBALL MUSEUM
- REMOVING BARRIERS TO THE GAME WE ALL LOVE | 2017 BREAKTHROUGH SERIES
- BUILDING A PLAYGROUND FOR UNDERSERVED KIDS IN MIAMI | ALL STAR 2017
- LENNY KRAVITZ WOWS ALL AT MLBPA BASH | ALL STAR 2017
- BUSES FOR BASEBALL RETURNS TO ITS ROOTS
- FOLLOWING THE FOOTSTEPS OF LEGENDS AT DODGERTOWN | ELITE DEVELOPMENT INVITATIONAL
- WE'RE ALL LITTLE LEAGUERS AT HEART | LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES 2017
- WHO AM I? AKA PLAYERS WEEKEND
- #MENOFSTEEL MARCH TOWARD THE WORLD SERIES | POSTSEASON 2017
- PLAYERS KNOW BEST - ALTUVE, RIZZO LEAD 2017 PLAYERS CHOICE AWARD WINNERS
- WHEN DISASTERS STRIKE, PLAYERS STRIKE BACK
- PLAYERS TRADE BATS FOR HAMMERS
- PLAYERS LOVE "GOING HOME"
Players Trust gathering kicks off the new year
The year began, like most in recent years, with the Players Trust annual meeting along with charity golf and poker tournaments packed into a two-day schedule in Las Vegas. Players, as usual, came away with renewed vigor to support their favorite causes in the communities where they live and perform.
“Guys get a little energy when they see all the things that the Trust is doing and hear about and discuss all of the possibilities to do more,” said veteran pitcher Chris Narveson. “But we also get energized about the upcoming season when we see all the other guys because we all know the season is now right around the corner.” (Read more)
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Rookie Career Development Program - AKA The Future's So Bright...
A highlight of the past three Rookie Career Development program, the annual orientation gathering for up-and-coming prospects held each January at the Landsdowne Resort and Spa in Leesburg, Va., has been a session where they get to learn about the union from Executive Director Tony Clark. During this players-only session, the prospects learn about their union and the importance of taking an active interest in their industry and, ultimately, their careers.
Some of the most valuable information is passed from one generation to the next, as each year a number of former major leaguers, including several MLBPA staff members, serve as “resource players” who facilitate the program by sharing valuable insights with the next generation of players in small-group breakout sessions as well as through informal chats during session breaks and meals. (Read more)
In late February, the Players Trust announced the five recipients of a 2017 Michael Weiner Scholarship for Labor Studies, established by players to honor the life and work of the Major League Baseball Players Association's late executive director, Michael Weiner, who was just 51 when he died in November 2013 after a battle with brain cancer.
The students were honored for their commitment toward pursuing careers dedicated to improving the lives of workers. Each recipient received a $10,000 scholarship from the Players Trust to help defray some of their academic costs. (Read more)
Clark and a traveling caravan of Players Association staffers held meetings in Arizona and Florida during spring training – a tradition that began in March 1966 when founding Executive Director Marvin Miller traveled to every camp to introduce himself to players and to conduct a vote on his hiring.
For the first time, due to time constraints created by the playing of the World Baseball Classic, players from multiple teams attended meetings together on the Arizona leg of the tour before the MLBPA caravan made the long trip around Florida, where traditional camp-by-camp meetings were held. (Read more)
The 2017 World Baseball Classic set records for attendance, television ratings, digital consumption and merchandise sales. The fourth edition of the premier international baseball tournament concluded with the United States winning its first tournament title by defeating Puerto Rico 8-0 in the final at Dodger Stadium.
The fourth edition of the WBC surpassed the 1 million mark in attendance for the first time, drawing 1.1 million – a 23 pct. increase over 2013. With ultimate winner Team USA in the championship game, the finale drew the tournament's largest domestic television audience in its history, with 3.1 million viewers across MLB Network, ESPN Deportes and the Spanish-language simulcast on ESPN2. Overall, viewership for the tournament was 32 pct. higher than it was in 2013. (Learn more)
Giving you the 411 on the men who play the game
The Players Association created two new online programs during the regular season to highlight players' outstanding performances and contributions to the game.
The daily #MLBPlayers411 series told the story of the 2017 season by highlighting the backstories and performances of dozens of players from around the league while the #PowerPerformance feature allowed the union's social media followers an opportunity to select baseball's leading performer each week.
In a feature designed for baseball card collectors, social media followers who participated in the weekly #TotallyDistortedTuesday contest were asked to guess the identity of a scrambled trading card picture to become eligible for prizes. More than 100,000 fans engaged in the contest throughout the season.
For the second straight year, the Players Trust proudly made a grant of $42,000, representing Jackie Robinson's now-retired No. 42, to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in recognition of the day (April 15, 1947) he became baseball's first black player and broke the industry's color barrier.
“Jackie Robinson's legacy transcends baseball and his influence on others knows no geographic boundaries,” said Clark, the union's first former player and first African-American to lead the Players Association. “Personally, Jackie's accomplishments, impact on and off the field, and his character, continue to provide me with inspiration and serve as a guide.”
The Trust contribution helps the Foundation fund its Jackie Robinson Scholars program, and the MLBPA was honored to host three of the most recent scholars at a gathering that included Executive Director Tony Clark, Chris B. Young of the Boston Red Sox and Judy Pace Flood, the widow of Curt Flood. (Read More)
On April 18, the Players Association announced the re-launch of Infield Chatter, the social media appcreated by the Players to help them engage with fans in a fun environment that features the players themselves interacting with fans and exclusive, one-of-a-kind content that takes fans into the clubhouse.
“Every player understands how important it is to connect with the fans,” said slugger Kris Bryant. “They're the main reason this game is so special. The fact that Infield Chatter was built with this interaction in mind as the top priority really helps us share and connect in ways that we haven't been able to anywhere else.”
The Action Team, the national youth volunteer program created and administered by the Players Trust and Volunteers of America to help train and inspire the next generation of volunteers, debuted its latest TV PSA on FOX during the broadcast of the 88th All-Star Game in Miami.
The PSA, titled, “Difference Makers,” includes Major Leaguers Tim Beckham, Kevin Kiermaier and Lonnie Chisenhall along with high school Action Team Captains Rachel Duke of Cleveland and Hishaam Shafiq of Tampa. The 30-second PSA was created from longer video features that showed a “a day in the life” of the two high school volunteers, who are among the more than 500 high school students across the country serving as Action Team Captains. (Read more)
In town for a mid-April series with the Yankees, Astros Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick shared their love of the game with a group of autistic kids at at the DREAM baseball field in Harlem as the Players Trust again supported the New York Center for Autism Charter School‘s annual baseball extravaganza.
Bregman and Marisnick spent time on the diamond with the kids, playing catch, running the bases and throwing batting practice.
“It's good to get out here and give back,” Marisnick said. “Alex and I, we've kind of been blessed our entire lives and to come out and shed some light and see the excitement in these kids' eyes is awesome. It's fun to be a part of.” (Read more)
In June, the Players Association and MLB announced a $1 million joint contribution to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum with the hope that the Kansas City-based shrine to black players during the sport's segregation will inspire future generations of minority players. The contribution from the Youth Development Fund was ear-marked to support the NLBM's operations, museum services, expansion, and educational and community programming.
“Today's Players are committed to providing opportunities for underserved populations to play baseball, and we all believe the Negro Leagues' storied history can play an important role in our game's future by inspiring minority youth to play the sport we all love,” Clark said. (Read More)
The first of the three 2017 Breakthrough Series events took place June 20-23 at Curtis Granderson Stadium on the University of Illinois' Chicago campus, giving a select group of about 60 mostly minority high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to develop their skills and showcase their talent before professional scouts and college recruiters.
In addition, the series, which also had events at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. (June 27-July 1) and the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. (June 27-July 1), also offered top-level instruction from a group of mostly former major league players who brought their experience and expertise to bear.
The former players who served as coaches and talent evaluators included Luis Alicea, Willie Banks, Mike Cameron, John Cangelosi, Lou Collier, Bob Didier, Marvin Freeman, Dave Gallagher, Tom “Flash” Gordon, Jeffrey Hammonds, Marquis Grissom, Jerry Manuel, Rob Picciolo and Reggie Smith. (Read more)
On the Saturday before the All-Star Game, and despite intermittent downpours, Bobby Bonilla, Cliff Floyd and Charles Johnson were among hundreds of people who gathered to help the Players Trust build a playground that will serve more than 1,800 children in Opa-Locka, a community northwest of Miami in Dade County. Those ‘97 Marlins stars were joined by a crew of former players, including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Dave Winfield, as well as Danys Baez, Jose Cruz Jr., Jeffrey Hammonds, Steve Rogers, Ramon Santiago, Kevin Slowey and Jose Veras.
“We went through rain, it was hot, but everybody was working together on one mission,” said Johnson, who was an All-Star and Gold Glove catcher for the Marlins' 1997 World Series championship club. “It was uplifting. Everybody got their hands dirty, their shoes dirty and got right into it. The playground came out beautiful.” (Read More)
Mega-recording star Lenny Kravitz brought his unique blend of rock, blues, funk, R&B and pop to the stage at the MLBPA's annualAll-Star Party, which, as usual, was the ticket to have for revelers out on the town during All-Star Game festivities in Miami.
On July 18, the Trust's popular Buses for Baseball program returned to its very first location, Kansas City, where 50 children and chaperones from the nonprofit Operation Breakthrough enjoyed an unforgettable day of baseball, first enjoying a behind-the-scenes tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum then taking a trip to Kauffman Stadium to meet Royals players and watch the Royals take on the Tigers.
Players Trust ambassador Judy Pace Flood, Curt's widow, flew in from Los Angeles to join the group and provide them with some first-person historical perspectives. (Read More)
Former players were again at the forefront of the joint Youth Development initiative later in July at historic Dodgertown for the two-week Elite Development Invitational.
The former players who took part included Fernando Arroyo, Homer Bush, John Cangelosi, Lou Collier, Eric Davis, Bob Didier, Mike Easler, Dave Gallagher, Jeffrey Hammonds, Ron Jackson, Pat Mahomes, Darrell Miller, Reid Nichols, Rob Picciolo, Bo Porter, Rob Sasser, Junior Spivey, Lenny Webster and Dmitri Young.
Additionally, Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Ken Griffey Jr. and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark each stopped by to offer encouragement and advice to the youngsters.
“What makes this camp different from others is the coaches,” Young said. “You have major leaguers with some 200 years of major league knowledge. It's a baseball library. What we're giving them is what we've learned along the way.” (Learn More)
Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals players went to Williamsport, Pa., to show their support for developing the game at the grass-roots levels, engaging with the youngsters, attending games and finishing up their own four-game series on Sunday Aug. 20 at historic Bowman Field, the home of Phillies' affiliate. The cross-generational gathering of players created some unique and memorable moments and spontaneous interactions that proved to all that baseball is still America's favorite pastime.
The following weekend, players had the opportunity they've always wanted to engage fans through a celebration of their passion and personalities during the first-ever Players Weekend.
During this player-driven celebration, they wore nicknames on their jerseys,customized gear and colorful, non-traditional uniforms inspired by youth league uniforms during the three-day event, which was conceived as a way to allow players and young fans to connect through the sharing of their interests and cultures while bringing attention to causes they support.
“Players are increasingly interested in finding unique ways to connect with their fans by allowing them to see more of their personalities and interests,” Clark said. “The collective desire to express their diverse interests and backgrounds is what motivated players to advocate for the creation of Players Weekend.” (Read more)
The Players Association followed the day-to-day excitement of the postseason from the players' point of view with its #MenOfSteel campaign that put a spotlight on the outstanding performances through a series of stories and photographs that were posted on www.MLBPlayers.com and on the union's social media platforms daily during October. (Learn more)
Players selected José Altuve as this season's best player and Anthony Rizzo as the one who most inspires them to a higher level of achievement in their 26th Players Choice Awards. Altuve won 2017 Players Choice Awards as both the AL Outstanding Player and the overall Player of the Year while Rizzo was selected as Marvin Miller Man of the Year in balloting that was conducted in mid-September and announced Nov. 8 during a 90-minute broadcast on MLB Network.
“I have to thank all the players that put me in this situation, because they are the biggest reason that I'm sitting here. I'm thankful,” Altuve said during the broadcast. “I'm just a guy that goes out there trying to get better and trying to help his team.” (Learn more)
Players joined together multiple times during the late season and early off-season to lead relief efforts for a string of natural disasters that left people without homes and possessions. Active and former players played central roles in raising funds and distributing relief following hurricanes that caused flooding and destroyed infrastructure in Puerto Rico, Texas, Louisiana and Florida as well in California, which is still battling its worst wildfire season in memory.
On Sept. 22, the Players Trust announced a $1 million grant to support non-profits including Habitat for Humanity, Feeding America, Project Cure, Friends of Caritas Cubana, the United Way in Puerto Rico and others. On Sept. 27, the Trust helped coordinate an airlift of supplies to Puerto Rico with Pudge Rodriguez and Luis Alicea serving as ambassadors.
“Seeing my home country suffer this much, truly breaks my heart,” Rodriguez said. “It feels good to know that more help is on the way.”
The Players Trust redoubled its relief efforts in conjunction with the Executive Board Meeting in Dallas in late November. On Nov. 29, close to 50 active and former players gathered at a local Habitat for Humanity warehouse to help construct frames for two houses that were being allocated to the Houston area, then held a fund-raising event later that evening at the Four Seasons in Los Colinas.
Astros superstar and AL MVP José Altuve, Marlins All-Star Christian Yelich and Hall of Famer and local hero Pudge Rodriguez co-hosted the pair of events for the Trust.
"It's been a tough year for a lot of people all over the country," Yelich said. "It's just nice to let them know we appreciate them and haven't forgotten about them. We're going to do anything we can to help out." (Read More)
The popular “Players Going Home” program continued ingraining baseball and goodwill in players' home communities this offseason as Christian Yelich (Los Angeles, Nov. 5), Chris Archer (Clayton, N.C., Nov. 11), Marcus Stroman (Long Island, Nov. 11) and Rickie and Jemile Weeks (Altamonte Springs, Fla., Dec. 9) held events.
The program is part of the MLBPA's and MLB's $30 million jointly-funded and jointly-administered Youth Development Foundation. Players demonstrate their gratitude and appreciation to those who have helped them along the path to Major League success – either in their hometowns and/or the places they now call home.