PHILADELPHIA -- Since becoming Commissioner, Rob Manfred has stressed the importance of youth initiatives for Major League Baseball. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of Major League Baseball for more than two decades, serves some 4 million kids each year.Those mutual interests were on display on
PHILADELPHIA -- Since becoming Commissioner, Rob Manfred has stressed the importance of youth initiatives for Major League Baseball. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of Major League Baseball for more than two decades, serves some 4 million kids each year.
Those mutual interests were on display on Thursday night at the historic Union League, when Manfred headlined a distinguished group that honored Phillies chairman David Montgomery, who received the Major League Champion Award from the Boys & Girls Club.
"Thank you for being a Major League Champion for the kids," BGC of Philadelphia chief executive officer Lisabeth Marziello said. "Your leadership, commitment and inspiration is truly making a difference."
Montgomery received a standing ovation before and after accepting the award, a presentation that came after a moving tribute video.
Manfred concluded his remarks by addressing Montgomery directly.
"The best I can say to you is congratulations on an amazing career and a life full of good work," Manfred said.
The event -- officially called The Winemaker's Private Reserve Dinner -- included a fundraiser and auction to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs.
While Montgomery received the hardware, he made it clear that he was doing so on behalf of the Phils' franchise, deflecting the attention from himself. He described himself as overwhelmed and a little embarrassed.
Before the ceremony, Montgomery talked about his philosophy.
"I've said that many times: As a ballclub, we have tremendous visibility," Montgomery said. "We've been around since 1883. And [the Boys & Girls Clubs have] been around since 1887. So they've been doing a lot of great things for the youth in this city for a long, long time. And this is a night to celebrate all the Boys & Girls Clubs do."
Manfred was pleased to be able to spotlight Montgomery's long commitment to the charity.
"David may be my oldest friend in the game," Manfred said. "He's been an advisor and mentor to me since I started in the game, and I'm thrilled to be here to honor him.
"The Boys & Girls Clubs have been a great partner. They run Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities [RBI] programs all around the country for us. They're very involved in our youth initiatives. We're glad to have them as a partner. The RBI program is really important to us. We have a nice initiative going this year. Baseball has spent over $1 million, and we're going to renovate a Boys & Girls Club in each of our Major League cities over the course of 2017."
Montgomery said he was "particularly honored" that Manfred was in attendance.
"I have a very long friendship with Rob personally," Montgomery said. "The fact that he would come down here [from New York] to be a part of this is great. As a matter of fact, all the speakers, from [former Eagles coach] Dick Vermeil to [Comcast executive vice president] David L. Cohen to [former Pennsylvania governor] Ed Rendell to Rob Manfred, it's a pretty amazing group. And for that I'm very, very flattered."
Also included in the glittering Who's Who were Phillies owners John and Leigh Middleton and Pete and Nancy Buck, chairman emeritus Bill Giles, much of the team's front office, former players Dickie Noles and Tommy Greene, a large contingent from the Eagles ... and even the Phanatic in a tuxedo.
Montgomery noted proudly that Joe Jordan, the Phils' director of player development, serves on the BGC board. He reiterated what a perfect fit the group is for MLB and noted that former player Shane Victorino and his wife, Melissa, had made a significant contribution to refurbish the BGC in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia.
"It's their mission," Montgomery said of the Boys & Girls Clubs. "The biggest challenge I think we have, whether your focus is on education or single-parent families or whatnot, is to enhance the development of young people. Particularly those in the inner cities.
"And it's the sweet spot for baseball, because a lot of times, the Boys & Girls Clubs use [baseball] as a method to draw interest from the young people and give them some form of fulfillment they might not have otherwise. So it's really our honor to support the Boys & Girls Clubs, and hopefully, MLB and the Phillies will continue to be good partners for them going forward.
"I really thank the Boys & Girls Clubs for this opportunity to turn that focus and spotlight on what you're doing for the children of the city."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com.