KANSAS CITY -- "There is no place like home," said the Wizard of Oz.
That was Ozzie Smith speaking, and he walked into a house that was being framed in parking lot H outside Kauffman Stadium, as crowds were arriving in the ballpark for Taco Bell All-Star Sunday. The Habitat for Humanity All-Star Build is happening right there, as Major League Baseball, State Farm, the MLB Players Trust and Holiday Inn Hotels have teamed up with Habitat to build nine new homes in partnership with families in the tornado-ravaged communities of Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Two of the nine homes are being framed during All-Star Week in the parking lot. In addition to the two homes being framed in Kansas City, five of the nine homes already have been completed, and construction on the final two will conclude in the fall. It was a moving experience for Smith, the Cardinals' legendary shortstop, who was among many players in the Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game who donned hard hats and visited the two framing sites.
"It was special to see what is being done," Smith said. "Those people are the people who are actually in the trenches doing all the work and building those homes. All of those people who take the time out of their schedules to help another human being is always very special.
"It was very devastating. Every time something like that happens, it touches us all. You hate to see that happen to anyone, and especially when someone is dislodged from their home for any length of time. There is no place like home. Not to have a home, and for the three families this week that were able to get keys to a home, I know it's been a long time coming, but I'm sure they can't thank Habitat for Humanity enough."
Baseball fans can help at any time by texting ALLSTAR to 25383 to donate $10 to support Habitat's disaster response work; message and data rates may apply. Holiday Inn Hotels will match fan donations, up to $30,000, and contribute additional funding, if necessary, in order to guarantee a minimum donation of $60,000 to Habitat for Humanity.
"It's an incredible privilege to work for Commissioner [Bud] Selig, who has such a vision of philanthropy," said Jacqueline Parkes, MLB senior vice president of advertising and marketing, after being part of a group that visited Joplin on Friday for a block party that gave three families the keys to their new homes. "To be able to go to Joplin, where there has been such incredible devastation, and these people really need help rebuilding, and have such a positive spirit about it.
"The devastation was unlike anything I think I have ever seen. And yet the smiles on the people's faces were so great as we pulled down the street."
Five-time All-Star Joe Carter, an Oklahoma City native and nearby Wichita State alum, has personal experience in his family with tornado devastation.
"It's very tough because it hits close to home," he said. "What happened in Joplin was just a terrible tragedy. To see Habitat for Humanity coming back and trying to help out, I mean, that's what this world is all about. It's not about what you do, it's helping others.
"With all the tornadoes that hit, living in Oklahoma, my nephew came out of his cellar, whole house was gone -- down in Piedmont, Okla. So I know about those tragedies. For the communities to come together, to rally together and help one another, it's great because that's what this nation is built up on."
Paul Dimeo, the designer on ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," has played a key role in the coordinated efforts. He said these are "1500-, 1600-square-foot homes" being framed with screws on the parking lot so that they can then be taken apart, put onto a flatbed and trucked off to Joplin and Tuscaloosa, where they will be drywalled and finished.
"I think it is so important whenever someone like MLB can step up and show that philanthropic arm like that and lend a hand to something in such need -- when we think of what's important, family, housing, having a roof over our head -- so for everyone to get in there and get four homes that are going to Tuscaloosa and five going to Joplin," Dimeo said.
"I know that Habitat is building about 80 more this year. We built seven in a week, and right after we left, they came in and built 17. They're doing a great job, and you can't do it without the support of a Major League Baseball. So it's wonderful that my favorite sport can be helping another cause that's dear to my heart."
Saul Bosquez, a native of Adrian, Mich., was one of two players chosen from the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team chosen to participate in the All-Star softball game. His left leg was shattered five years ago by a roadside bomb in Iraq, so he knows misfortune and what kind of spirit it takes to come back. On Sunday, walking on an artificial leg, he walked off a bus and onto the Habitat Build site, where he signed one of the wooden beams.
"Obviously it's a tragedy what happened, and for MLB and everyone to go back and help rebuild, any little bit helps," Bosquez said. "It's just nice to see that some people are doing that to help other people."