Embracing the importance of coming together as a baseball family, MLB employees gathered at the MLB Network office in Secaucus, Chelsea office and the Office of the Commissioner in Manhattan on Tuesday, filling backpacks with school supplies to be sent to underprivileged children across the U.S. and in Latin America as part of an event organized by the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT).
“School’s coming up, and we have at least 500 children of our applicants out there, and they all have trouble putting food on the table and paying rent, so this is just a small way of making life a little bit easier for them,” said Erik Nilsen, the executive director of BAT.
While some volunteers packed pencil cases, others constructed cardboard boxes to transport the backpacks, and some even wrote heartfelt letters to the recipients.
“This is a very fulfilling experience, just knowing we are helping people in need and bringing a little light into their lives," said Winnie Fralick, a specialist in employee benefits.
A nonprofit organization, BAT was founded in 1986 by a group of former Major Leaguers to bridge the gap for those whose pensions didn’t cover their expenses. Since then, BAT has evolved and expanded to help a range of families, including those of Major and Minor League front-office personnel, and former Major and Minor League players, umpires, scouts and athletic trainers.
In addition to supporting families who are dealing with financial and/or medical hardships, BAT offers drug and rehabilitation support and has launched a scholarship fund for members of the MLB community who aspire to advance their education. More recently, BAT has expanded to countries in Latin America, helping families get back on their feet after natural disasters.
The 30 Major League clubs play a large part in providing BAT with resources, as representatives from BAT visit each team during Spring Training to collect donations and spread awareness of the organization.
In preparation for Tuesday's event, Kevin Moss, manager of community affairs, reached out to the 30 clubs for fun contributions, including stickers and baseball cards, that could be added to the backpacks with the school supplies.
“I think it went great," John Schwarz, senior coordinator of community affairs, said. "Our volunteers were motivated and completed the backpacks quickly. It was great to see employees take time out of their busy day for BAT recipients."