CINICINNATI — MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced an agreement with the MLB Players Association to begin a new youth initiative at the annual All-Star game press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
The new initiative will allocate $30 million for the development of youth baseball and softball in the United States.
“In the brief time that I have been commissioner, I have made youth participation a priority and I think the key to our participation efforts is creating opportunities for young people to play the game,” Mafred said. “We have recently embarked on a new initiative to play ball. It’s a grassroots program to get kids to play the game in its simplest form, even if it’s whiffle ball, catch or home run derby, the things that a lot of us did as kids.”
Manfred wants the new program to focus on five main areas: coach education, obtaining grants to build new academies, provide opportunities in undeserved areas, utilization of resources (former major league players) and creating more league play.
The Baseball Tomorrow fund, an existing partnership with the MLBPA, has already contributed over $11 million toward youth fields across the country.
MLBPA executive Tony Clark was excited to join a cause that hit so close to home.
“We wanted to help engage baseball in an area that is very personal to all of us players,” Clark said. “Speaking of players, whether they are active or inactive, being involved while you’re playing, being involved when you’re done playing with youth and youth development structure, it’s something that we’ve all been a part of, we all enjoy being a part of …”
According to Manfred, Major League Baseball is kicking off the Elite Development Initiative next week in Los Angeles, which is going to give some of the best high school players in the country an opportunity to play under professional, high-quality conditions.
“We are really looking forward to that and I really want to thank the MLBPA for getting on board with this initiative … ,” Manfred said.
Clark is excited about the possibilities of the new initiative.
” … Rest assured, when we are talking about this Youth Imitative going forward, even though it’s in its infancy and even though we are pushing this thing forward to affect positively as many young people as we can, both on and off the field, we’re excited about where it’s going,” Clark said. “We’re excited about what it can do, both domesticity and internationally as the things we’ve already started there continue to grow as well … “
San Francisco Giant All-Star catcher Buster Posey talked about the importance of learning sportsmanship at a young age.
“For me, I was fortunate to play with a group of guys that were competitive amongst ourselves,” Posey said. “To me, sometimes that’s missed in today’s sports. There’s no winner or loser, and to me, that’s important to teach kids that you’re not going to win all the time. You’re going to lose and it’s OK. It’s how you try to make yourself better and it’s how you try to learn from those experiences.”
For fans that wish to donate to the youth initiative, Manfred said the league is establishing a new 501(c)(3) where fans can contribute to help the program.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.