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MLB reps volunteer at NYC Youth Pride event

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- With anticipation building for Major League Baseball's first appearance in the New York City Pride March on Sunday, some of the organization's employees decided to start the celebrations a day early by volunteering at the Youth Pride event Saturday afternoon.

For the second consecutive year, 14th Street Park in downtown Manhattan served as a place for thousands of LGBTQIA+ and ally teens to celebrate NYC Pride with their friends. In 2017, the Youth Pride event had more than 2,000 guests in attendance. This year, NYC Pride communications manager Eboni Munn was thrilled to see about 6,000 names registered to visit Saturday's celebration.

NEW YORK -- With anticipation building for Major League Baseball's first appearance in the New York City Pride March on Sunday, some of the organization's employees decided to start the celebrations a day early by volunteering at the Youth Pride event Saturday afternoon.

For the second consecutive year, 14th Street Park in downtown Manhattan served as a place for thousands of LGBTQIA+ and ally teens to celebrate NYC Pride with their friends. In 2017, the Youth Pride event had more than 2,000 guests in attendance. This year, NYC Pride communications manager Eboni Munn was thrilled to see about 6,000 names registered to visit Saturday's celebration.

"Oh my gosh, I feel amazing," Munn said. "To see so many kids out here, I didn't have this growing up and I know the board didn't either, so it's amazing."

As volunteers -- including 10 from Major League Baseball -- assisted in running activities, passing out bandanas and helping the event run as smoothly as possible, the participants had many options for how they wanted to celebrate Pride. Those in attendance could create their own flags, post words of encouragement on lockers that were on display, purchase clothing and accessories at the Pride Shop or have makeup artists put colorful makeup on their eyes and faces.

Major League Baseball doubled its number of volunteers at the Youth Pride event after having five in the event's inaugural year, including Ernesto Hernandez, manager of international baseball investigations and compliance, who volunteered at the event in both 2017 and '18.

"As an LGBT person, it's important for me to give back to the community," Hernandez said. "I wish there was something like this growing up to show me that I'm welcome, that I belong. So I just want to pay it forward and give it to the next generation, so that's why it's important for me to be a part of it."

Although many of the volunteers have personal ties to the cause, MLB's crew also wanted to spend time at Youth Pride on Saturday to get out a message for the organization they are representing.

"This is the next generation, so we want to show them that they have a place in the sports community and that they have a place in Major League Baseball," Hernandez said. "We are the sport of Jackie Robinson, so inclusion is in our DNA. We want to show that LGBT Youth are welcome in our game."

"Major League Baseball is definitely a big inspiration to us," Munn said. "It's amazing to have them here."

Billy Bean, a former Major Leaguer who has served as MLB's first Ambassador for Inclusion since 2014, wanted to make sure that his organization was represented throughout NYC Pride weekend. After spending time in Alaska for the 24 hours of Play Ball events during summer solstice, Bean landed back in New York around 1 a.m. on Saturday before participating in the 37th annual Pride Run in Central Park just a few hours later. Then, Bean made his way over to Youth Pride to celebrate with the next generation.

"There's such a connection between the youth of the city and how defiantly strong these kids are under some incredibly difficult circumstances," Bean said. "The one amazing fact about LGBT is we are every race, every gender, every language, every size, shape, every culture, so we are like the centerpiece of all the diversity spectrum in a way."

The Youth Pride event gave the Major League Baseball volunteers just a taste of what Sunday's celebrations will be like with over 150 MLB employees signed up to participate in the organization's first appearance in New York City's 49th annual Pride March.

"I just feel like we found a way to reach into pockets that don't normally have baseball on their radar, and the first way to do that is to let people feel a connection to baseball or the Yankees or the Mets or a player or whatever," Bean said. "I pinch myself a little bit because we've come a long way, but all you got to do is look in the rear-view mirror a little bit and you know we've got a lot of work to do still. But I'm really proud of baseball collectively."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.