DETROIT -- Not only is Justin Verlander an All-Star on the field, but he's also generous away from the diamond.
The Tigers announced on Wednesday that Verlander has committed $1 million to launch an initiative partnered with the Detroit Tigers Foundation, an affiliate of Illitch Charities, called "Wins for Warriors" that will support the mental health and emotional well-being of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in Detroit as well as Richmond and Norfolk, Va.
"This is something that I've said I'm passionate about," Verlander said. "I'm in a very fortunate opportunity now, and I feel like I wouldn't be here if it weren't for these men and women, so this my way to give back."
Reports indicate that as many as one in three Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who experience combat will eventually experience mental-health challenges.
"They face challenges when they return that most people don't understand," Verlander said. "The thing is, these men and women are taught to be brave and strong, and when they come home they're not going to be the first ones to raise their hands and say, 'Hey, I need help.' We need to go out there and extend our arm to try to help these men and women."
"Wins for Warriors" is devoted to sustaining successful programs that work with veterans and their families along the way to recovery, because one size does not fit all. Over the next year, funds will be distributed to two national organizations, Give An Hour and The Mission Continues, which have the expertise to have a long-term impact on this population in the target markets.
The new initiative also launched an online fundraising campaign to raise more support for these programs through the end of the regular season. Fans are encouraged to support the cause by raising funds that will be matched by Justin. Incentives throughout the five-week campaign include a chance to participate in an on-field event prior to a game during the 2014 season, receive a signed baseball and the opportunity to watch a game from Verlander's private suite in 2014. Go to www.justinverlander.com for more information.
"I couldn't be prouder of Justin and what he did today," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think it's really remarkable and commendable. We got good people here."
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com.