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

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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