Players Association celebrates West Baltimore's youth baseball tradition
Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark believes baseball can be a transformative experience in a young person's life.
That's why he led a group of active and former players to West Baltimore on Saturday to honor the James Mosher Baseball youth league, which was founded in 1960 and is among the country's oldest continuously operating African-American youth leagues. The league is also located just a few blocks south from the scene where angry demonstrations erupted earlier this spring.
"Hopefully the message we're sending is that we did notice and we do care and we want to be part of a solution," Clark said.
"Baseball oftentimes is the respite," he added. "It's one thing that brings communities together and affords kids and adults the opportunity to distract themselves from what may have happened during the week or any of the challenges that they may be going through."
Joining Clark from the baseball-playing fraternity were Orioles outfielders Adam Jones and Delmon Young, Hall of Famer and Orioles legend Frank Robinson, former Orioles All-Stars Eric Davis and Jeffrey Hammonds, and Orioles first-base coach Wayne Kirby, a former Major League outfielder with three different clubs.
"We have an impact, and we can make impacts, so I think what we're going to do is use our abilities and try and impact where we can," said Jones, whose arrival prompted a frenzy among the young ballplayers in attendance.
The players and former players hosted a day of baseball, food and entertainment for more than 300 youth players and families and, through the Players Trust, provided enough baseball equipment -- bats, balls, gloves, batting helmets and catcher's gear -- to keep the league going for a while. The kids also got free tickets to the Yankees-Orioles game later that night.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who joined in the celebration and tossed the ceremonial first pitch, joined the players' tribute to the influence of the league and the coaches, volunteers and families.
"James Mosher has been a steadfast part of this community for decades, and to see this tradition not just continue, but flourish, gives me a lot of pride," Rawlings-Blake said. "These kids out here, they're learning the important skills of teamwork, integrity and hard work, and they're learning it from men in the community who are really some of our top business leaders, top community and civic leaders."
Nobody was under the delusion that a day of baseball and goodwill would resolve the myriad issues that affect the community.
"It's a small start," Robinson said. "It's just to let them know who we are, but it's what we do after this. You can come in, you can talk, you can drop things off or bring equipment, but when we leave, do you come back? Do you follow through? Are you involved in the community?"
The MLBPA, its members and the Players Trust are committed to following through on the goodwill they helped plant in West Baltimore, and they hope to inspire others within the baseball community to do the same.