NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball's continuing efforts to connect generations and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America's mission to serve our country's youth go together like, well, a hand in a baseball glove.
That's why Commissioner Bud Selig decided in 1997 to make BGCA an official charity of MLB. Since that time, the league has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect support for the youth service organization.
In recognition of those efforts, Selig was presented with the Chairman's Award at the Great Futures Gala on Wednesday at the American Museum of Natural History. Over $2.5 million was raised through ticket sales, auctions and a pledge drive.
In his acceptance speech, the Commissioner made it clear how much the support his parents meant to him.
"My mother was a teacher, and loved museums as much as I loved Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field," he said. "Together we visited each city's museum and ballpark. And because of my mother, baseball's cathedrals went from mere figments of my imagination to vivid reality. Those trips created moments etched in my mind that I've held dear throughout my life.
"Being at this awe-inspiring museum, I can't help but think of my mother and the great example she and my father set for me. My mother taught me how to dream. And my dad taught me that there's no substitute for hard work. They reinforced just how important it is to have positive role models in life, which feels particularly poignant tonight, given the great reason we're gathered here.
"By providing safe places and mentors, Boys & Girls Clubs open the eyes of our children to the world of possibility. They instill in our children the significance of schoolwork, service, personal growth and pursuit of one's dreams."
The Boys & Girls Clubs, he said, is an "outstanding cause" whose purpose he's long admired.
He also noted that baseball is the sport most likely to be handed down to children from their parents. He quoted author, historian and prominent baseball fan Doris Kearns Goodwin: "The game of baseball has always been linked in my mind with the mystic texture of childhood, with the sounds and smells of summer nights and with the memory of my father."
Said Selig: "She was right. Keeping our next generation engaged in the wonderful traditions and the fun of baseball is always one of our foremost goals. We have paid special attention to strengthening the connections between our great game and those who represent its future. In numerous ways, baseball strives to support the game at its grassroots level and to cultivate the players, coaches and fans of tomorrow. We'll never rest in taking our timeless game to our kids.
"Baseball, it is often said, is the children's game. Our game is the sport of families. It is the sport that represents an American tradition like none other. And it is the sport passed from one generation to the next."
The audience included some of the top executives from both MLB's central office and individual teams. Two former All-Stars with long associations to BGCA, Harold Reynolds and Ken Griffey Jr., saluted Selig, who has announced that he'll step down as Commissioner in January.
"We're here to pay tribute -- and it's hard to even say it -- to our outgoing Commissioner," said Reynolds, who now works as an analyst for MLB Network. "You talk about making a difference. I remember when he became the interim Commissioner and then the Commissioner. How much this game has changed, it's mind-boggling. He's changed the game in a lot of positive ways."
Added Griffey, one of the most popular players of his generation: "Mr. Bud Selig has done a wonderful job of turning baseball around. ... You've got a lot of young kids who are coming into baseball, or any other sport, and I think baseball has done a great job of leading the way in cleaning up sports. And the same thing with the Boys & Girls Club. I feel that, without them, there are a lot of things these kids could get into."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.