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Twins, MLB give back to All-Star communities

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins and Major League Baseball are set to contribute a record $8 million toward local projects and national charitable initiatives as part of the 2014 All-Star community legacy effort.

The All-Star community legacy effort by the Twins is both the most extensive in All-Star Game history in both the amount of projects and the funding contributed, the specifics of which will be unveiled leading up to the 2014 MLB All-Star Game to be held at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.

The Pohlad family is contributing generously to charitable efforts that will consist of a range of renovation projects and life-enrichment initiatives in the Upper Midwest region and beyond.

The projects will support several youth baseball field renovations, impact the lives of underserved youth and local veterans, place a focus on improving the health and well-being of local citizens, support cancer research and highlight the importance of environmental consciousness.

"It's humbling," said Twins president Dave St. Peter at a press conference to make the announcement at Target Field on Friday. "Obviously the All-Star Game itself is going to be a wonderful showcase of the ballpark, the city and the state but the legacy giving projects are going to be here long after the All-Star Game concludes. So it's really a chance to give back and make a difference to people who need help."

The donations will be made through MLB Charities, the Twins Community Fund and the Pohlad Family Foundation. It's set to support national charitable initiatives, such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, the National Recreation and Park Association, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

"We're here to celebrate Major League Baseball giving back to the community it serves," Pohlad said at the press conference that featured MLB and Twins executives, several elected officials and Twins legends. "On behalf of the Minnesota Twins and the Pohlad Family Foundation, we're proud to be a part of that."

The first All-Star Fans Choose grant initiative will also award $500,000 to a nonprofit organization in the Upper Midwest region to support a capital project that will benefit the local community. Nonprofit groups in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin can apply at through May 23.

Additionally, MLB and The Color Run are joining together to host the first The Color Run MLB All-Star 5K presented by Nikeon July 13 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights, Minn.

The Twins are also looking to raise environmental awareness by "going green" via public-service announcements. All-Star "Green Teams" will also be on hand throughout All-Star Week events wearing branded organic cotton T-shirts and circulating throughout the ballpark collecting recyclable materials.

In a touching tribute to the late Hall of Famer, the Twins are also set to fund the Kirby Puckett Mobile Eye Clinic, which will be part of the Kirby Puckett Education Center at the Phillips Eye Institute, to provide more than 43,000 uninsured or underinsured children and adults through Minnesota with preventative eye care.

"That's a project I'm particularly fond of," St. Peter said. "Kirby had such a tremendous impact on so many of us in the Twins organization. He meant so much to people in the Upper Midwest that we felt this was an opportune time to celebrate his legacy long-term."

Four youth baseball fields owned by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Parks and Recreation Department are also scheduled to be renovated. The fields are Northeast Athletic Park and NSP Field in Minneapolis, El Rio Vista Baseball Field in St. Paul, Minn., and Lee Park in Robbinsdale, Minn.

Additionally, an official Miracle League field will be constructed in Hibbing, Minn. The specially designed field for youth with disabilities will serve kids from more than 10 communities in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota, and it's the first of its kind in the area.

"Whether it be a Miracle Field in Hibbing or a Little League field in St. Paul, there's a lot of projects that will be special to people," St. Peter said. "So it'll be fun to see it all come together over the next few months."

MLB and the Twins, in partnership with the Starkey Hearing Foundation in Eden Prairie, Minn., will fund a project to fit preselected recipients with their own customized, state-of-the-art digital hearing device. Patients will be identified by local audiologists and through partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and local schools for the hard of hearing.

The Jerry Gamble Boys & Girls Club in Minneapolis will be renovated to transform a currently unusable indoor pool into a functionally multipurpose room with a synthetic floor for multiuse athletic space, a new scoreboard, new lighting and windows, bleachers, a stairway to the balcony, an air-handler unit for locker rooms, an HVAC system and a concessions area.

The Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Twin Cities in Minneapolis will undergo a renovation to the common area and 48 rooms. A baseball-themed lounge will also be created in the central space.

MLB and the Twins are also set to join CommonBond's effort to develop 58 new homes at Fort Snelling for veterans and their families who are experiencing homelessness. The homes will be located on the VA Medical Center campus on the upper post of Fort Snelling.

On the environmental side, the Twins will help fund a seven-acre woodland restoration at Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary in St. Paul. The project will transform a former railroad site into a nature sanctuary complete with prairie, savanna, maple-basswood forest and a stormwater management system of filtration ponds and wetlands.

"We know this event is about more than just baseball," said St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman. "It's about creating opportunities for children, the restoration of natural areas, providing for veterans and making our community a great place. Baseball is special to all of us in this region and we love Target Field but we love this partnership that makes our communities better."

Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, and follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger.
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