Amid a planned reduction of 34,000 U.S. military troops in Afghanistan by next February, Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced an expansion of its efforts to help returning American veterans and their families with a new $10 million donation to Welcome Back Veterans.
Nearing the five-year anniversary of the apolitical organization's inception, this backing brings MLB's total commitment to Welcome Back Veterans to $23 million. Welcome Back Veterans is an initiative of MLB Charities and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, helping men and women make a successful transition to civilian life when their service to their country has ended. It is promoted annually on MLB's biggest stages, including the World Series.
Welcome Back Veterans uses this funding to provide grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment to veterans and their families in a public/private partnership with MLB Charities, the McCormick Foundation and Centers of Excellence at university hospitals throughout the country.
The McCormick Foundation will contribute a minimum of $2.5 million in addition to the $10 million donation from MLB. Currently, Welcome Back Veterans is funding programs at Weill Cornell in New York, the University of Michigan, Rush University Medical Center, Duke University, Emory University, UCLA and the Red Sox's Home Base Program at Mass General Hospital in Boston. These institutions are developing new programs and strategies to improve the quality, quantity and access to PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI) treatment for veterans, particularly those returning from duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Major League Baseball considers it both a privilege and a responsibility to honor and assist our troops in any way we can," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "We are proud to support this initiative, and we ask our fans to join us on Memorial Day and beyond in this effort to raise awareness and funds for this important cause."
"We are grateful for Major League Baseball and the caring fans who have stepped up and given generously to support healthcare and research to help veterans successfully return to life with their families and communities," said David Hiller, president and CEO of the McCormick Foundation.
This season, in addition to wearing "Stars & Stripes" caps on the Fourth of July, all 30 clubs will wear specially designed caps on Memorial Day (May 27) featuring an authentic military digital camouflage design officially licensed from the U.S. Marine Corps. These New Era caps will be available for sale at the MLB.com Shop and clubhouse stores, and MLB Advanced Media and MLB Properties will donate all net proceeds received from sales of the caps to Welcome Back Veterans as part of the overall $10 million donation.
"We as players are extremely proud not only to wear these caps but also to represent and pay our respects to our returning veterans," Mets third baseman David Wright, who comes from the naval community of Norfolk, Va., said at that introductory news conference announcing Welcome Back Veterans. "Growing up in a military town in Virginia, I have friends and family who have given up their lives to serve a cause. Because of these men and women, I get the opportunity to play a game and live in freedom. I hope we remember these veterans."
Welcome Back Veterans also addresses needs in partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation, with support from MLBAM and MLB Network.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.