KANSAS CITY -- Pitcher Aaron Crow had just finished helping an energetic group of Royals employees serve a Thanksgiving meal to about 300 down-on-their-luck guys at the City Union Mission.
"It feels good to give back to the community that supports us so well," Crow said. "It's nice to give back, and just talking to some of these guys, I don't think some of them ever thought they'd ever have a lot of these problems and be homeless. But things aren't the best, and it makes you realize it could happen to anybody."
Things do happen to anybody -- loss of a job, poverty, going hungry, a severe illness, being born with a disability, cancer, a home lost to a tornado. People need help, and the Kansas City baseball club with its Royals Charities and community affairs efforts has been there to lend support physically, emotionally and monetarily.
As home to the 2012 All-Star Game, KC became a focal point for national as well as local good works, as Major League Baseball and the Royals sought to leave a significant portion of funds raised in the community as a "Lasting Legacy." MLB and the Royals partnered on more than 26 initiatives to donate more than $4 million raised through All-Star functions.
An All-Star summer
"There is no place like home," said the Wizard of Oz, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, as he watched Habitat for Humanity workers outside Kauffman Stadium building frames for houses that would go to tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Fans joined corporations in pledging money for the project.
That was just one part of a busy All-Star week. Royals owner David Glass, club president Dan Glass and All-Star ambassador George Brett, as well as Commissioner Bud Selig, kept busy presiding over various functions in Kansas City.
"The one caveat for the team is the community initiatives. That's the part that keeps you motivated, really," Dan Glass pointed out. "Fortunately, a lot of the MLB initiatives are a lot of what we believe in as well ... special-needs kids, Boys & Girls Clubs, RBI, working with the military. We do that, too."
The All-Star Game spawned a myriad of other projects that included:
Youth field renovations at Mulkey Square Park, Satchel Paige Stadium and Cleveland Park.
Boys & Girls Clubs facilities renovations.
Five area high school students were All-Star Scholars with the chance for annual $2,500 scholarships.
Refurbishing areas of the Kansas City VA Medical Center's Honor Annex.
Renovations to the Operation Breakthrough daycare center serving low-income families.
Funding for a traveling exhibit for the KC-based Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.
Funds and awareness via the All-Star charity run for the Stand Up to Cancer campaign, Prostate Cancer Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Players in the community
It was just about a year ago that Royals left fielder Alex Gordon and his wife, Jamie, held a Playing for Pink Casino Night in Lincoln, Neb., a fundraiser that was inspired by a 12-and-under baseball team that wore pink jerseys after two team members lost their mothers to cancer. The event raised more than $120,000.
That's just one cause that made Gordon the Royals' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award this year. Since 2007, together with Royals Charities, he's supported the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation to raise funds to fight childhood cancer. The foundation was named for a Connecticut girl who lost her life to the disease, and it was a good fit for the Royals' Alex.
"It made sense because of the name, I did a couple of promotions with it, and as the years went by, I got more involved. I hope to stay with it and continue to do more for them," Gordon said.
Gordon also helped serve meals at the Red Stocking Breakfast to raise money for the Kansas Children's Service League's fight against child abuse.
Designated hitter Billy Butler and his wife, Katie, feed the poor and hungry through the Bishop Sullivan Center and the slugger's Hit-It-A-Ton campaign, which he launched in 2008. Butler donates $250 -- the cost of a ton of food -- for each of his home runs and $125 for each double. With corporate and fan partners, they raised $97,750 for 391 tons this year, and the five-year total is just over $338,000.
Pitcher Danny Duffy and former players including John Mayberry, Willie Aikens and Brian McRae and more than 30 front-office associates went to Joplin, Mo., to work with Habitat for Humanity on four homes for tornado victims.
The Royals Celebrity Golf Tournament, which included Butler, Bruce Chen, Tim Collins, Duffy, Jeremy Guthrie, Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith and Everett Teaford, took in more than $50,000 for the Special Olympics of Kansas City.
Other charitable and community involvement:
Royals Charities' first Home Runs for Hunger event, featuring fans swinging for the fences at Kauffman Stadium, raised nearly $11,000 and 10,000 pounds of food for Harvesters, the Community Food Bank.
The 30th-annual Royals Wives Food Drive, chaired by the Butlers, collected food and cash donations for the Bishop Sullivan Center.
The Baseball Equipment Drive, headed by pitcher Greg Holland and second baseman Chris Getz, supplied the team at Alta Vista Charter School, which serves many students of Mexican heritage. The school also received a $5,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund.
The Royals Wives Coat Drive, chaired by the Gordons, benefited SAFEHOME, which works to help victims of domestic violence and their children.
The Back to School Drive, led by right fielder Jeff Francoeur and his wife, Catie, collected materials for needy children in the Kansas City School District, especially homeless kids.
Gordon and Crow participated in last year's Johnson County Christmas Bureau's holiday shop for families in need.
Pitcher Luis Mendoza took part in the Royals Baseball Ability Camp for kids with physical or developmental disabilities.
Fans were encouraged to Wear Blue for Kids at an early season game to show support in the fight against child abuse.
Joining with the Chiefs football team and Operation Blessing International, the Royals helped feed 2,000 needy families.
The MLB Players Alumni Association's memorabilia auctions at the stadium helped provide free baseball clinics for youngsters.