Baseball Around The World
Baseball has been known as America’s game since its creation in 1839. It has served as an entertainment outlet for many Americans, bringing about positive feelings of nostalgia and pure competitive joy. As time went on, baseball proved to be a popular sport around the world, allowing kids to chase dreams of home runs and perfect games. With anything long enough to be a bat, and round enough to be a ball, people around the world have found numerous ways to create the game of baseball.

Kids Chasing Their Dreams

Many people in impoverished countries have used baseball as a way to express their competitiveness. With most professional teams coming from the United States and Korea, many kids in impoverished countries dream of one day making it to the biggest professional stage for baseball. For these kids, that starts with the Little League World Series. The Little League Baseball organization has put young kids on the world stage since 1939. Little League teams can represent their region in a world tournament every August. Historically, the United States and China have produced powerhouse teams that dominate consistently. However, every few years, the tournament experiences new young talent from countries like Uganda and Mexico, showing how baseball around the world has been expanding.

In 2012, the Little League World Series tournament said hello to its first team from Uganda. Though the team lacked skill, they made history by appearing in the tournament. Then in 2015, Uganda made its second appearance, showing great improvement since its original appearance. According to Roger Sherman, “Ugandan baseball is young and has faced a lot of obstacles. But these kids have gotten really good really fast, and they aren’t going away any time soon.” The sport has become a staple in Uganda as they continue to build up their baseball communities. Creating leagues and supporting kids in developing countries is one way that baseball has historically helped impoverished communities grow. Baseball around the world has impacted kids, and it continues to do so.

Fighting Poverty With Baseball

More recently, baseball has proven to be a huge supporter of ending poverty around the world. According to Stuart Anderson, 27% of major league players are foreign-born, with the majority of those players coming from the Dominican Republic. About 30% of the Dominican Republic population is living below the poverty line. It is only natural for major league baseball players to use their popularity and skill to support their home countries.

Food for the Hungry, a global nonprofit organization, has teamed up with many major league baseball players to launch the Striking Out Poverty initiative. For the last two years, players like Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dee Gordan of the Seattle Mariners and Jake Flaherty and Michael Wacha both of the St. Louis Cardinals, have dedicated their skills to help raise awareness for countries below the poverty line. Some play for clean water, some play for food donations, some play for farmers and some play to save lives.

How to Help

Anyone can help by donating. Showing support for a team or player’s personal campaign can make a big impact. With each game played, they generate thousands of dollars to donate. With the help of fans across the United States and the world, they can generate even more.

For decades now, baseball has spread its popularity around the world. It is a sport that, played any way possible, provides joy and escape for many people. The sport itself and the professional players have had a positive impact on communities around the world.

Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

Grand Slam
Major League Baseball (MLB) player Adam Wainwright is a two-time World Series champion. Additionally, Wainwright is a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glover, and Silver Slugger Award winner. In 2013, the Saint Louis Cardinals’ star found another use for his work ethic, leadership and passion by founding the Big League Impact (BLI) to fight poverty in the global community. He believes, “As an athlete, you only get a few years to have a platform like this. You might as well stand on it.” This article discusses some of the organization’s successes, highlighting why founding the organization was a grand slam against poverty.

The BLI began as a family fantasy football fundraiser. Today, this organization hosts campaigns and collaborates with fellow non-profits, athletes, musicians and other public figures. For example, the organization has taken Kyle Gibson into the ranks; the pitcher for the Texas Rangers who now serves as Vice President.

Teamwork Helps Puerto Rico Recover After Earthquake

Following two devastating earthquakes in 2019 and 2020, the BLI raised $30,000 for communities in Puerto Rico. This money went to two foundations: The Happy Givers and Yadier Molina’s Fundación 4. The Happy Givers has endeavored to improve lives in Peru, Tijuana and Puerto Rico. It used donation proceeds to provide power, clean water, emergency supplies and shelter to earthquake survivors. It gave further support by supplying backpacks packed with essentials for survival: whistles, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, flashlights, towels, water bottles, first aid kits and cereal bars.

Fundación 4, meanwhile, has focused exclusively on helping Puerto Ricans. BLI’s contributions went to children suffering from abuse, neglect, as well as diseases such as cancer. Fundación 4 also distributed necessities including food and water to Puerto Rican communities.

Fundraiser Drives Away Poverty and Hunger

Gateway Bronco (GB) is a company based in St. Louis, MO, that designs and restores Ford Broncos. This organization worked with the BLI and Omaze, an online fundraising platform, to fight against poverty. GB offered a classic Ford Bronco and $20,000 cash to bring in donations. This campaign raised $431,378.09 to benefit four charities:

  1. Crisis Aid International: Crisis Aid International serves to combat famine, disease, natural disasters and sex trafficking by serving families in East Africa and the U.S.
  2. Water Mission: Water Mission provides sustainable safe water solutions to people living in developing countries and facing natural disasters.
  3. Food for the Hungry: Food for the Hungry supplies clean water, medical aid, food, equal educational opportunities to children in over 20 countries.
  4. Help One Now: Help One Now fights poverty in developing countries by empowering entrepreneurs, educating and providing restorative care.

El Mogote is No Longer Parched for Safe Water

In 2019, Nick Ahmed, a shortstop for the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks, partnered with BLI. He traveled to El Mogote, Dominican Republic to open a water treatment center. With the help of Striking Out Poverty and Food 4 the Hungry, Mr. Ahmed was successful in providing 1,200 people with clean water. While there, Ahmed also played baseball with the children, saying, “their passion and joy for the game was so incredible!” Ahmed donated 31 pairs of New Balance cleats to the kids, allowing them to safely continue playing the game.

Healthy Competition for Global Health

Baseball and Football fans alike are encouraged to join the BLI fantasy football league. Entry requires a donation to the organization, ranging from $250 to $1500. Higher donations unlock additional prizes.

In 2020, Ahmed and starting pitcher Luke Weaver of the Arizona Diamondbacks will compete for the cause. Weaver is looking forward to the competition, “I’m excited to defend my title as the best fantasy footballer ever, but I’m welcome to all challengers in that and I hope somebody tries to take me down.” Ultimately, the winners are those in need around the world.

Looking to the Future

To date, BLI has raised over $5.2 million for charitable causes and foundations. Now, Wainwright is mobilizing and advising his fellow athletes on starting their own charities and nonprofits. He says, “What we want to do at Big League Impact, one of our biggest missions now is empowering other players to go out into their communities and into the world and do what they feel like means something to them. Something that hits home.”

– Heather Babka
Photo: Commons Wikimedia

baseball players helping to fight povertyMajor League Baseball encompasses players from all around the world who go to North America to play the highest level of baseball. Players often come from humble beginnings and struggle along the way, in order to make it playing professional baseball. It isn’t uncommon for players to come from impoverished communities to play professional baseball. Players often want to give back to the people in their native communities who helped them achieve their dream, while also inspiring other athletes to help poverty-stricken communities. There are several professional baseball players helping to fight poverty. There are also baseball charity campaigns joining in the fight.

Baseball Players Helping to Fight Poverty

  1. David Ortiz: Ortiz grew up in the Dominican Republic and would later become a sports icon in Boston, winning three World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox. Ortiz founded the David Ortiz Children’s Fund to help children in Boston and his native country of the Dominican Republic have essential cardiac services that they need, like cardiac surgeries. To date, his children’s fund has provided over 1,600 low-income children with detection and screening for cardiac care, support for a regular rural outreach and detection program in the Dominican Republic and child life specialist support for over 4,000 children.
  2. Albert Pujols: Pujols also grew up in the Dominican Republic and is a three-time Most Valuable Player award winner and a two-time World Series Champion. In 2005, Pujols and his wife started the Pujols Family Foundation which aims to meet the needs of children with Down syndrome and improve the quality of life of impoverished people in the Dominican Republic. The foundation provides impoverished people in the Dominican Republic with health care, mentorship and education. The foundation set up a vocational school that teaches women how to sew and make jewelry. Over 18,000 people in the most desolate areas of the country have received medical care thanks to the foundation.
  3. Striking Out Poverty 2019: Throughout the 2019 baseball season, a number of individuals joined together to launch a campaign titled Striking Out Poverty 2019. The campaign is a joint initiative between Big League Impact and Food for the Hungry. Big League Impact helps impoverished communities have basic needs fulfilled like clean water, food and medical care. Food for the Hungry works in some of the poorest countries in the world, helping those most in need with food, along with educational and vocational training. Striking Out Poverty 2019 raised nearly $300,000 for these organizations through six sub-campaigns among individual players or teams.
  4. Luke Weaver: A pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Luke Weaver raised $132,610 through his 22X campaign, which will go towards helping Rohingya refugees. Weaver’s total amount raised came from his strikeout total which was 69. Through his donation and matching donations, each strikeout of his was worth $1,921.88.
  5. Nick Ahmed: Among the baseball players helping to fight poverty is Nick Ahmed. This shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks raised $104,575 from his Every Hit Makes a Difference campaign, part of which will go towards a community center in the Dominican Republic. The center will be a place for education and job training as well as a place to receive medicine. The total came through donations and his own contribution. Each hit of his amounted to $736.44 towards his campaign.

As an international sport that brings players together from all over the world and from all different backgrounds, baseball has the power to unite. Players like David Ortiz and Albert Pujols have given back to the communities that they grew up in, improving the lives of those who walk the same ground they walked before they were professional athletes. The Striking Out Poverty 2019 campaign has also helped individuals who are affected by poverty. The Professional baseball community and its fight against poverty shows the impact that can be made when individuals who have a platform help those in need.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Flickr

Charitable MLB Players The athletes playing in Major League Baseball (MLB) are utilizing their fame and athletic talents to help those in need around the world. Some of these players grew up in countries with extreme poverty. Baseball was used as a means to find a better life and return to help their home countries with charities and relief efforts. Others have visited poverty-stricken countries and chose to make a difference in unique ways to increase poverty awareness. Here are three charitable MLB players who are giving back.

Baseball Players Giving Back Around the World

Pedro Martinez – Dominican Republic

Considered one of the greatest pitchers of all time, Pedro Martinez was a dominant force on the mound throughout his 17-year Hall of Fame MLB career, which included a World Series win with the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Born in the Dominican Republic, Martinez saw first-hand the poverty that gripped his home country as he trained for life in baseball. When the coronavirus hit his home country, he took action and led the way with his organization, the Pedro Martinez Foundation, along with 40 other Dominican born MLB players. The group created a fund that has raised more than $550,000 for the relief efforts. This will pay for 5,000 food kits that last a total of two weeks each. It also will provide thirty-two thousand medical masks for doctors and nurses, 110,000 masks for citizens and 7,700 protective suits for medical personnel.

Dee Gordon- Rwanda

During a baseball game, Dee Gordon is best known for stealing bases. Throughout his decade-long career, he has stolen 330 bases, the most of any player in a 10-year period. The Seattle Mariners 2nd baseman has been using his talent for stealing bases to help increase poverty awareness to the hunger issues in the Ruhango district of Rwanda. Gordon has been associated with organizations such as Food for the Hungry, Strike Out Poverty and the Big League Impact Foundation for several years in order to help feed people in the Central African nation since 2019. As a charitable MLB player, every time he steals a base during a game there is a donation that he personally gives of $100 that goes toward one of these organizations to help feed the people of the Ruhango district. He has raised over $47,000 over the years to help impoverished nations all over the world including Rwanda. 

Carlos Carrasco- Venezuela

In 2019, Carlos Carrasco received the Roberto Clemente Award for his efforts in helping out his community in his home country of Venezuela and around the world. The Roberto Clemente Award is given out once a year to the MLB player that shows extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contribution, both on and off the field. Carrasco, a 33-year-old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, has been donating money and supplies to help those in Venezuela suffering from the current economic crisis that has gripped the nation for years. In 2019 he donated $300,000 to Casa Venezuela Cucuta, an organization out of Columbia that helps recent Venezuelan migrants fleeing the crisis. Carrasco has also sent toys, medical supplies and baseball equipment to the children living in Venezuela. 

These three charitable MLB players show their dedication to increasing poverty awareness in countries that need it most. Through baseball, they have found fame and fortune. With that success, they have given back to communities all over the world by giving their time, money and efforts in creating a life for those without. 

Sam Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Dominican Baseball Recruitment
American baseball has become increasingly diverse and filled with players not originally from the United States. Major and minor league recruiters set up sophisticated training facilities, or ‘academias,’ throughout Latin America, including the Dominican Republic, aiming to streamline talented students to successful careers in U.S. baseball. The academias function as motivation and preparation for Hispanic youth to bring themselves and their families out of poverty. Since 4 out of 10 are impoverished in the Dominican Republic, baseball is seen as a ticket out. There are many benefits that come from baseball recruitment in the Dominican Republic.

Baseball in the Dominican Republic

More Major League Baseball players come from the Dominican Republic than any other country. In 2016, 134 players came from the country, about one in every 10 major leaguers. In the Dominican Republic, efforts to build the best players begin with children as young as 14 years old.

It is estimated that Dominican players earn roughly $400 million each year from playing baseball, some of which is sent back to the Dominican Republican and reinvested in their economy. This sum makes up a small part of the true financial impact of baseball in the Dominican Republic, as the training academias draw in thousands of aspiring youths — not just Dominicans, but also those from neighboring countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua, Panama, Mexico and Cuba. These facilities must be staffed with trainers and equipment, and baseball is estimated to spur the Dominican economy by $1 billion a year.

Pros and Cons

Baseball also plays a socially positive role for Dominicans. Dominican baseball recruitment bonds families and friends towards a common goal, and keeps youth out of troubling activities that could derail futures. Major league players functions as heroes and inspiration—showing those who come from nothing that success is possible. Those who grow up impoverished can make it to the MLB, amass a fortune, and spread the wealth back to their home country.

A downside frequently exists when this type of cultural transplant occurs. On average, only 2 percent of those who enter academias ever make it to the major leagues. Another major issue is the use of performance enhancing drugs on youth to make them more competitive to recruiters — handlers, or agents, stand to benefit from their prodigies’ prowess and success. 

Since players’ signing bonuses range anywhere from $10,000 to over $3 million, with handlers receiving 10 percent – 50 percent of this amount, it’s logical that Dominican players make up 38 percent out of those who test positive for these drugs. In addition, few legal boundaries are in place for how players are handled prior to handling, and often result in vast amounts of corruption among agents.

Back to One’s Roots

Despite these problems, the success of baseball recruitment in the Dominican Republic remains strong. Nelson Cruz, the Seattle Mariners cleanup hitter, is an exemplary illustration of a Dominican player that gives back in meaningful ways. 

Living the good life as an impressive MLB player, he has not forgotten the reality of life for many back home in the Dominican Republic. His family ingrained in him a commitment to doing the right thing, and after his old neighbors and lifelong friends in Las Matas de Santa Cruz lost their home in a fire, he arranged to have a firetruck sent back to his hometown.

“In my community, we didn’t have a firetruck,” Cruz said. “We also needed an ambulance because we don’t have the biggest hospital. When somebody gets sick, or accidents or heart attacks, any emergency, we had to transport those people in trucks or SUVs, nothing that can give you the medical attention you need.”  In the U.S., we take things like emergency medical response for granted, but this is often not the case in many Latin American countries. Cruz’s donation has reportedly helped save many lives and changed the landscape of his home country.

Living the Dream

Cruz has also arranged a scholarship program to help combat some of the issues with baseball recruitment. Oftentimes, recruits leave school and sign a three-year contract but never make it to the big leagues, leaving them with nothing and no education. Cruz helped create a scholarship program to help these youth obtain an online diploma in an attempt to ease the transition for Hispanic youth whose baseball dreams fail to take them to full athletic success. 

This story of one of many Hispanic players giving back to their home countries facing extreme poverty demonstrates the positive cycle spurred by baseball recruitment in Latin America. This sport helps bring underdeveloped countries out of extreme poverty and can act as a beacon of hope for Hispanic youth.

– Jilly Fox

Photo: Flickr

major league baseball
On Oct. 25, 1971, a fifth child was born to Dominicans Paolino Martinez, a janitor, and Leopoldina Martinez, a laundress—a couple who had to raise their children in a dwelling that had a tin roof and dirt floors. Forty years and nearly $150 million in career earnings later, that child would return to his hometown Manoguayabo to build schools, roads, homes and churches through a charity he founded.

The story of Pedro Martinez, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball’s history, spurs innumerable poor Dominican youths to play the game. Poverty and poor economic prospects motivates them to put in the requisite hours of practice, and a large baseball infrastructure, which includes training academies developed by Major League teams, validates these youths’ dreams of wealth.

Or maybe the numbers alone are validation.

An article in the International Business Times reported the average salary of major leaguers to be $3.4 million. Compare that to the annual income of a Dominican worker: $5,130.

Of the 224 foreigners playing for Major League Baseball in 2014, 83 hail from the Dominican Republic. The DR beat historical baseball powerhouses Cuba (19), Puerto Rico (11) and Venezuela (59) for the title of top overseas producer of major leaguers.

It is unclear if this success will translate into significant poverty reduction back in the DR.

Certainly, the DR’s economy has been growing in the recent past. If one ignores the relatively minor economic crisis of 2003 – “minor” in terms of impact on GDP – GDP growth has been impressive in past years: “9.5 percent in 2005, 10.7 percent in 2006 and 8 percent in 2007,” according to one study.

However, that same study concluded the MLB’s impact on this economic growth was marginal compared to the effect of remittances and the development of a tourist economy, though the construction of baseball academies does always create jobs.

In any case, poverty has remained a persistent problem in the DR despite the country’s economic growth. 40.9 percent of the population is at or below the national poverty line. Half of all children are impoverished. The tourist economy has failed to create jobs for the masses of poor, with unemployment at 15 percent.

Thus, the MLB will continue to be a source of hope for many Dominicans. To Dominican players, a signing bonus of $5,000-$8,000 on its own is worth the time investment. Should their career end shortly after receiving such a bonus, at least they received enough money to support their families or to invest in a business enterprise.

And, of course, each player might just be the next Pedro Martinez.

Unfortunately, the hope that such possibilities inspire is intermixed with desperation. In their hunger to secure a better life for themselves and for their families, many Dominican players have turned to using steroids, which are relatively easy to procure in the DR. Drug usage is seen by many young Dominicans as a way to “cheat the system,” and wherever desperation exists, people are likely to try to cheat.

“Buscones” are another source of controversy in Dominican baseball. These player agents find talent, develop it and take a cut of any signing bonuses. The players that make it to the MLB mostly express their gratitude to these agents, but buscones also “have been accused of corruption, embezzlement and feeding steroid drugs to young prospects,” according to an article by Palash Ghosh at the International Business Times.

One cannot conclude from all of this that the MLB will have much to do with the eradication of poverty in the DR, but one also cannot deny the organization’s potential to do both good and bad in the country.

– Ryan Yanke

Sources: George Mason University, MLB, The World Bank, Forbes, International Business Times, Baseball Reference, Boston Globe, SABR, Huffington Post
Photo: Latin Trends