The Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T.) announced on Thursday that it has created the Commissioner Bud Selig Leadership Award to be presented annually in recognition of baseball executives for extraordinary support of the organization, and its namesake will accept the inaugural award at the 25th annual Going to Bat for B.A.T. Dinner on Jan. 21 at the New York Marriott Marquis.
"The Baseball Assistance Team is a special organization, unlike any other in sports, that has provided vital help to many different contributors to our industry during their times of need," Selig said. "It has been a privilege to support the mission of B.A.T. in the last two decades as Commissioner and throughout my career in baseball. I am touched by this recognition."
B.A.T. is a 501(c) 3 charity and a unique organization within the sports industry that offers help to members of the baseball family who are in need. More than $29 million in grants have been awarded to date, benefiting more than 3,100 members who are in need of assistance with nowhere else to turn. All aid provided by B.A.T. is strictly confidential, allowing those in the need to receive help discreetly.
At the annual fundraising dinner, fans are given the opportunity to interact with Hall of Famers as well as former and current Major Leaguers while raising money that goes toward assisting others who have fallen on hard times. Last year's dinner honored Yogi Berra, and it was announced that B.A.T. had tended to 262 cases in that previous year. More than 100 players, including nine Hall of Famers, were in attendance then. The night's festivities include a cocktail hour, at which attendees have the opportunity to meet and receive autographs, and a dinner at which players are seated with guests at each table. All proceeds from the evening go to B.A.T.
B.A.T. was founded in 1986 by former Commissioner Peter Ueberroth, a group of former players and MLB. Selig has been at the helm for nearly all of the B.A.T. dinners the past quarter-century.
"We are proud to bestow this honor upon Commissioner Selig to recognize baseball front-office executives who support our organization in a meaningful way," said 13-year Major Leaguer Randy Winn, president of B.A.T. "Over the years, we have received a substantial amount of assistance from individuals and groups throughout our industry, including players, clubs, executives, club and league employees, and fans, but none more so than from the Commissioner's Office.
"We are very grateful for the Commissioner's leadership and all of the support we have received in his tenure to allow us to continue our mission of assisting members of the baseball family who are in need of help and have nowhere else to turn."
Orlando Cepeda, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers and Jim Palmer are among Hall of Famers scheduled to attend. Additionally, Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, who is on the board of directors of B.A.T., and All-Star pitcher Jason Marquis are scheduled to attend as are former All-Stars Jim Bouton, B.A.T. Dinner Chairman Steve Garvey, Davey Johnson, Tommy John, Howard Johnson, Cleon Jones, Lee Mazzilli, Rusty Staub, Bob Watson, Roy White and Dmitri Young.
MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds and host Matt Vasgersian will co-emcee the dinner, while some of their colleagues at MLB Network, including Eric Byrnes, Sean Casey, Al Leiter and Mitch Williams, are also scheduled to attend. MLB.com's Richard Justice will also be in attendance.
"B.A.T. gives a chance for guys like myself, who have been out of the game, to give back to some guys who have come upon some hard luck," Fingers said. "[Those who] can't make a medical bill or make a house payment -- you wouldn't think that would happen, but it certainly does, because there were a lot of guys who played when I played and didn't make the big money. B.A.T. certainly helped out a lot of ballplayers in the past, and that's why we're here."
In addition to assisting former Major League players, B.A.T. also offers support to former Major League managers, coaches, scouts, umpires, athletic trainers, front-office personnel, Minor League Baseball players and personnel, Negro Leagues players, players from the Women's Professional Baseball League, as well as spouses and children under the age of 24.
For more information about B.A.T., to purchase tickets for the dinner or to make a donation, please call 212-931-7822 or visit BaseballAssistanceTeam.com.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.