B.A.T. honors McDowell with Lifetime Achievement Award

Organization also recognizes longtime sports agent 'GoGo' Gilbert with Frank Slocum Award

December 8th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Sam McDowell stood at the podium in front of a packed ballroom full of his family, admirers and colleagues on the final day of MLB’s Winter Meetings and grinned.

The prestigious Baseball Assistance Team (B.A.T) Lifetime Achievement Award was just a few feet away and minutes from being handed to him, but as usual, all McDowell could think about was celebrating others and shining light on the human spirit.

It’s how McDowell has operated for close to four decades. He’s a big reason why B.A.T. is one of the most successful organizations in sports.

“I’ve been with B.A.T now for 35 years and to me, the heroes are the volunteers,” McDowell said. “I have never met individuals in my life that are willing to give up so much of their time. They all got full-time jobs and they're willing to give up 100 hours of volunteer work every week as needed. Although they are giving that trophy to me and I'm going to take it home, a piece of it belongs to every one of the volunteers.”

McDowell wasn’t the only celebratory story Wednesday morning.

Dennis “GoGo” Gilbert, the longtime sports agent and special assistant to the chairman of the Chicago White Sox during the last 20 years, was honored with the Big B.A.T./Frank Slocum Award for exemplary service and dedication to B.A.T. Gilbert, the founder of the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation (PBSF), is a former Minor Leaguer, and the manager partner of Paradigm Gilbert. In 2020, B.A.T. absorbed the PBSF platform, which allowed for the organization to serve scouts on a greater scale. As an agent, Gilbert represented several high-profile players including Bobby Bonilla, George Brett and Mike Piazza. A big proponent of deferred money, it was his idea to negotiate Bonilla’s famous contract with the Mets that pays him $1.2 million every July 1 through 2035.

 “It means a lot to me to share this moment with people who understand when I say baseball is just not a game, it's not just a sport or job. It's a way of life,” Gilbert said. “I want to thank the great people who are part of the baseball family, the great people who have supported me through the years, the most wonderful and beautiful supporting wife that anybody could have. Married 44 years. Three daughters, two grandkids. And lastly, I want to thank B.A.T. very much for taking over the scouts foundation. They do such a wonderful job and taking care of our entire baseball family.”

 The program also recognized B.A.T. grant recipient Leonel Bejaran, a former Minor Leaguer for Royals, who is now a coordinator for educational and cultural programs for the Oakland A’s.

Bejaran completed his high school diploma online while at the Royals’ academy in the Dominican Republic and earned an athletic scholarship to Mid-American Christian University in Oklahoma City. B.A.T.’s scholarship program helped him pay for his college expenses, and he graduated last year with a degree in Business Administration.

“B.A.T. has an amazing reputation of being professional, caring and empathetic and walking you through a seamless process to get the help you need as part of the baseball family,” Bejaran said. “They treat you with dignity and respect throughout the whole process. They helped my wife and I get opportunities we would not have thought of otherwise.”

 As for “Sudden” Sam McDowell, the six-time All-Star and a member of Cleveland’s Hall of Fame was the mental health and addiction recovery consultant for B.A.T. from 1986 through 2016. He joined the B.A.T. Board of Directors in 2017 and later served as vice president from 2020 to 2022. Among his many contributions, McDowell provided support on B.A.T. awareness and fundraising campaigns with players and club front offices. Tim McDowell, the former pitcher’s son, now serves in the mental health and addiction recovery role for B.A.T.

“Sam McDowell and the Baseball Assistance Team probably saved my life,” former Major Leaguer Bernie Carbo said. “There was never a time you couldn’t call Sam McDowell. Three o'clock in the morning, four o'clock in the morning: ‘Sam, I am buried, and I don't know what to do, where I need to turn.’ He was there. It didn't matter. He gave you the time, he gave you an understanding, he talked to you. He knew what we were going through.”

 McDowell’s story is well-documented and remains an inspiration. His career was sidetracked by alcohol, and the addiction eventually cost him everything. He was out of baseball by 1975 and moved back into his childhood home.  Instead of pitching, McDowell sold insurance. He eventually checked himself into rehab and later earned degrees in addiction and sports psychology from the University of Pittsburgh. He opened his own consulting firm and it led to a job with the Texas Rangers, a pathway back to baseball.

“When I graduated high school, I wanted to be a doctor and years later, I became a counselor,” McDowell said. “I just believe very strongly in helping people.”

Simply put, McDowell’s work with B.A.T changed the game.

“If I wouldn't have gotten in touch with him, I wouldn't be sitting here right now, alive, or with two kids or married for 32 years,” former Major Leaguer Mike York said. “I love Sam McDowell. He saved my life. The Baseball Assistance Team saved my life.”

Created in 1986 by a group of former Major Leaguers, B.A.T. was formed to help members of the baseball family in need of assistance. Throughout the years, the organization has awarded $59 million in grants to its 9,100 members "to restore health, pride and dignity to members of the Baseball Family."

The Baseball Family includes current and former, on-field Major and Minor League personnel as well as scouts, umpires, athletic trainers, Major and Minor League front office personnel, Negro League players, and players from the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.  B.A.T.’s coverage also extends to widows, widowers and children, ages 23 and under.

In addition to the United States, applicants represent the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and other South American and European countries.

In 2020 and 2021, B.A.T. provided $12.1 million in assistance to more than 4,100 applicants, covering items such as health insurance, household expenses, mortgages, prescriptions, medical bills, utilities, therapy and more.

“I think the greatest thing I could say is that I have never forgotten the fact that being a baseball player, but I'm still a human being. Being part of the baseball family. We're still human,” McDowell said. “We're susceptible to any problem that anybody else has and what makes things different with Major League Baseball is we have an organization that can help with those problems and to solve it, so individuals can go back and be a part of life and be productive."