KANSAS CITY -- The 83rd Major League Baseball All-Star Game is still more than a month away, but the tangible and lasting benefits for this year's host city have already come into sharp focus.
On a sun-splashed Saturday morning, as Bank of America volunteers got busy with landscaping chores at the renovated Kansas City VA Honor Annex following a launch presentation, the realization of just how much the All-Star Game will mean to the Greater Kansas City community fully hit home. Thanks in large part to funds that will be generated by the July 9 Gatorade All-Star Workout Day activities, the Honor Annex is among a series of community projects targeted as part of the MLB Lasting Legacy initiative.
Last year, it was Phoenix. This year, it's Kansas City.
The feel-good work in the host city continues as Major League Baseball and the Royals strive to leave a community legacy that will extend far beyond the All-Star Game itself.
"The big bonus to hosting the game is to be able to do these projects," said Kevin Uhlich, the Royals' senior vice president of business operations. "It's these things that will last much longer than the memories of the game once it's in the distant past."
The renovated Honor Annex, which is located just a few miles from Kauffman Stadium, will provide special services for female veterans and all veterans (male and female) with post-traumatic stress disorder. There will be family-friendly, baseball-themed play areas in the waiting area of the clinic for patients' children. Aesthetics of the clinic offices and meeting areas will be improved, and the landscape surrounding the facility will be enhanced. The Annex was recently added to the Kansas City VA Medical Center system.
"It's a perfect match for us," Uhlich said. "We strive to honor the military all through the year. Every day, they go out and put their lives in harm's way to allow us to have the freedom and peace to do the things in this country that we love to do."
Through MLB charities and Royals Charities, more than $3.5 million will be designated for MLB All-Star projects in the Greater Kansas City area and national charitable initiatives. On Saturday, the spotlight turned to the 45,000 veterans that the Kansas City VA currently serves.
"It's fitting that this building is named the Honor Annex," said Michael Moore, the assistant director of the Kansas City VA. "It's about them, their service, their willingness to defend us and the sacrifice they've made for us."
Bank of America, the official bank of Major League Baseball, is also supporting the VA Annex effort by committing its employees as volunteers and contributing more than $66,000 to the project.
"What makes me most proud is that this is an opportunity for us to show the collective appreciation for members of the military and the families," said Kashim Skeete, senior vice president for Bank of America.
In the weeks ahead, the Greater Kansas City community project work, fueled largely by MLB All-Star Workout Day dollars, will be far-reaching. There will be a Boys and Girls Club Renovation Project, youth field renovations and money designated for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and the MLB-Royals All-Star Scholars Program.
Funding will also go to Operation Breakthrough daycare center, which provides children living in poverty with a safe, educational environment, and a new traveling exhibit for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. The third All-Star Game Charity 5K & Fun Run presented by Nike will be held on July 8, and event-related net proceeds will be donated equally to Stand Up To Cancer, the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
The Saturday launch at the Honor Annex reminded those in attendance of what hosting an MLB All-Star Game can do for an entire community.
"For decades, the legacy of projects such as this will remain in Kansas City," Uhlich said.
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com.