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MLBPA, MLB announce new initiative to grow youth engagement, participation

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association will use the game's greatest resources -- its players and former players -- in a new North American initiative to grow youth engagement and participation within the game.

The initiative's mission is to improve the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur programs, the quality of baseball education, overall participation in baseball and softball, and to help youth reconnect with baseball.

But the key to the new program will be the full involvement of players both in the decision-making and implementation. Nobody has more passion for, or knowledge of, baseball than the players who have performed at its highest level.

"For as long as the game has been played, generations of Major Leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth," MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said. "Many current and former players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers, but also to help excite the next generation of fans.  

"This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, players have long known that re-seeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community."

Both the MLBPA and MLB, who have committed $30 million to the effort, will have an equal number of votes on the new nonprofit's governing board, ensuring players' input in the shape of the programs as well as the funding mechanisms.

One of the key components of the initiative will be the development of a national database of active and former players, broken out by region and city, who are interested in opportunities to engage with young people to teach our great game the right way.

This will help ensure that players who are already involved in youth baseball programs and those who are interested in working with kids in or near their own communities will be notified as programs and opportunities emerge.

Plans are underway to provide support for a program in Vero Beach, Fla., that will provide 150 teenagers from underserved communities a chance to receive elite coaching and training immediately following the All-Star Game.

The following are examples of the types of programs and projects that will be supported by the Joint Initiative:

1. Matching grants for baseball academies; 

2. Recognition/certification of outstanding youth leagues and coaches;

3. Summer developmental camps for minority and low-income players; 

4. Outreach/matching programs for players and former players who desire to work with youth baseball programs in their communities;

5. Support of projects as part of the "Play Ball" outreach program, and  

6. Stipends to allow minority and low-income players to participate in travel leagues and tournaments.

Initial funding for the youth Initiative and international expansion and development of the game will come from the International Tax Fund.