KANSAS CITY -- Fort Leavenworth is the oldest active U.S. Army post west of Washington, dating back to 1827, when it was established as a forward base protecting the Santa Fe Trail. It is now home to 17-year-old Axton Buchta and to the Fort Leavenworth Child and Youth Services, which is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
On Monday night, Buchta, whose father has been in the military for 27 years, was matched up with Prince Fielder. There were eight candidates in the State Farm Home Run Derby, and all eight were matched in a random draw with a youth from Boys & Girls Clubs within an hour of Kansas City.
And thanks to Fielder, Buchta's club just made $50,000.
Fielder and Buchta sat at the head table during the news conference after the Tigers' slugger won his second Derby, beating Jose Bautista in the championship round at Kauffman Stadium. The pair sat behind a giant check that was made out for $615,000, the total amount from State Farm and Major League Baseball to be split among various charities.
"Well, it means a lot to my club," Buchta said as Fielder smiled. "We don't have a lot of stuff over there, but it's just I love that place so much. I have a lot of fun over there. I have a lot of friends over there. And to have a donation like that is just absolutely amazing, and I thank you, so much, and everybody at the Youth Center thanks you for your donation."
"Any time," Fielder told him amid laughter.
Asked about the legacy being left, Fielder said, "It means a lot, seeing how happy he is. Any time you can make someone happy doing something you love, it's always a good thing. Just like I said, I'm happy that he's happy and you know, it was a good time."
When All-Star Week is over, what happened on Monday night will serve as a vivid reminder of how a legacy lives on from these annual events. In this case, the $50,000 for Fort Leavenworth will go to help renovate its teen center, perhaps for structural improvements, new furniture, new technology, a teen-friendly decor, some new fun.
Because the American League defeated the National League by a final of 61 home runs to 21, State Farm and MLB will donate $150,000 to the charity of AL Derby captain Robinson Cano. In addition, $100,000 will be awarded to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Cano's name, and $25,000 will be awarded to the charity of NL captain Matt Kemp.
Of the 82 baseballs that ended up in the seats and concourses of Kauffman Stadium, 16 were State Farm Gold Balls, each of which represented a $18,000 donation from State Farm and MLB to Boys & Girls Clubs. And although Bautista lost, give him a lot of credit, because he contributed six of those 16 Gold Balls -- five in the first round.
In addition, State Farm donated $3,000 for each non-Gold Ball homer launched. So by the time Fielder raised the trophy, the event generated a grand total of $615,000.
"The State Farm Home Run Derby showcases awe-inspiring athleticism while generating support for great charitable causes," said Justin Reckamp, marketing analyst for State Farm. "State Farm is extremely proud to sponsor MLB and the Home Run Derby. It's a wonderful event and helps us show exactly what it means to help our neighborhoods 'get to a better state.'"
"State Farm and Major League Baseball continue to be two of the strongest advocates for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and we're so thankful to both for their support," said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America. "In addition to the critical monetary support they provide, the once-in-a-lifetime experiences afforded the young people we serve are unforgettable. We can't thank them enough for all they do."
And the other seven kids paired with Derby sluggers? Their clubs each get $10,000 to help support their teen centers as well. This is all on top of the fact that all eight kids got to sit on the field and back their Derby participant, a memory of a lifetime.
For the Derby, State Farm and MLB launched the third annual Go to Bat for Charity site, where fans can help charities in their own way. Just pick the cause that means the most to you. Register and start playing, and you could win $18,000 for your charity and a VIP trip to the 2012 World Series.
"We're very proud of our partnership with Major League Baseball, and everything we do with MLB is about going to bat," Reckamp said. "It's for charities, causes, communities."
Fielder is becoming a major contributor through this channel, having won the event in 2009 across the state of Missouri, at Busch Stadium. He said it's not that easy.
"I don't think it looks easy, because it's hard," Fielder said. "You see me, I'm sweating, out of breath, and it's definitely not easy. It's just, you know, if you get in a groove and have a good thrower like I did, good things can happen."
They certainly did for Buchta and his friends on the base at Fort Leavenworth.