The Major League Baseball titles keep coming for the Houston Astros, who have now been formally recognized in 2017 as the best in the game both on and off the field. The new World Series champions were presented with the Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence in an announcement at the Owners Meetings on Thursday in Orlando, Fla.
The Astros were recognized for their Houston Astros Community Leaders Program, which since 2013 has positively affected more than 30,000 children throughout the Greater Houston area through baseball and softball programming, education-based initiatives and volunteer opportunities.
"Major League Baseball congratulates the Astros on this recognition, capping a championship year that will never be forgotten by the fans of Houston," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Under Jim Crane's leadership, the Astros have developed a strong record of impacting its city, recently demonstrated with Houston's ongoing time of need after Hurricane Harvey. The Astros Community Leaders Program is a great example of the difference that all of our clubs are making in their communities."
• Astros in the community
"We are honored to receive the prestigious Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence," said Astros owner and chairman Jim Crane. "We are proud of the progress we've made with our Foundation's Community Leaders Program. Thanks to the support of our many outstanding sponsors, we are making a significant impact in our city. While rebuilding fields, we are rebuilding communities. We've made good progress, but we have a lot of work left to do."
In 2013, the Astros established the Community Leaders Program as a dedicated initiative to making baseball and softball accessible to children of all ages. Since its inception, the program has improved conditions at 23 ballfields and provided tens of thousands of young people with free uniforms, equipment, tickets to Astros games and professional instruction. Through these initiatives, the club has engaged more than 30,000 children in Community Leaders-related programming.
While promoting youth baseball and softball is a major area of focus, the Astros also have committed to improving the quality of youth sports experiences. The program provides guidance for parents, coaches and league participants with a series of clinics on a variety of topics, including coaching, grounds keeping, nutrition, education and more.
The reach of this program extends well beyond city-owned parks and fields -- to schools throughout the Houston Independent School District (HISD). The district has been an integral partner and beneficiary of the Community Leaders Program, helping support its educational programming. In partnership with HISD, Phillips 66, the Houston Public Library and the Astros Foundation, the Community Leaders Program sponsors the Literacy Bus -- an interactive, mobile library that provides age-appropriate books to children K-5. The bus travels to parks and neighborhoods in the Community Leaders network, providing books and reading opportunities at no cost. Since March 2017, the Literacy Bus has provided more than 5,000 books to children in the Houston area.
Every holiday season, Community Leaders leagues partner with the Astros Foundation to select a family from their communities in need of support. Through the "Adopt-A-Family for Christmas Program," families receive gifts based on their specific needs. Additionally, the Astros organize volunteer opportunities with their staff and players to help local organizations, such as the Houston Food Bank, make a difference in the lives of those who are most in need.
As part of their recognition, the Houston Astros will receive a $10,000 grant from MLB Charities to continue their efforts through the Community Leaders Program.
In addition to this program, the Astros have rallied support for the Houston community following the devastation from Hurricane Harvey. Crane, club ownership and the Astros Foundation pledged $4 million to relief, recovery and rebuilding efforts. An additional $237,000 was raised via fan donations at the team's crowdfunding page YouCaring.org/AstrosHarvey, while the Astros donated proceeds from their Share2Care 50/50 raffle, which was held every home game, to the American Red Cross.
The Astros organization also has supported several initiatives to help families in need, including partnering with Aramark to provide the Salvation Army with 50,000 hot meals for hurricane relief workers from Sept. 5-14. From Sept. 7-14, the Astros, alongside corporate partners, provided and served food to 500 North Texas National Guard members who were positioned at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts.
Astros Foundation volunteers joined Astros players' wives and families to collect much-needed school supplies at all ballpark gates during the final weeks of the regular season to benefit children affected by Hurricane Harvey. The Astros continue to assess youth baseball and softball leagues who were affected by Hurricane Harvey, and they will be supporting them through equipment, apparel and other donations.
In addition to supporting disaster relief and recovery efforts in their market, the Astros Foundation -- with Crane Worldwide, FedEx and the Houston Mayor's Office -- helped to transport hundreds of thousands of pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Please visit Astros.com/community for more information on the Astros' year-round outreach.