Billy-Ball Daily: 2008-9-4

Billy-Ball Daily
Bill Chuck (Billy-Ball his own self)

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By Baseball Newstalgist, Bill Chuck

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The only spin here is on my screwball

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ON THE AIR: Billy-Ball, his ownself will be on the air this afternoon at 4:25 with Justin Hull on AM 1570 The Score – “The Home Stretch” in Appleton, Wisconsin and appears every Wednesday morning at 8:50 with Bonnie Grice on WLIUfm/88.3 in Long Island, NY.

Top of the 1st
Because I’m so immature, I don’t mind that much being as old as I am. One advantage is that, yes, I am old enough to have seen the great Roberto Clemente play right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. One disadvantage is that I am also old enough to remembering hearing about his tragic death in a plane crash while attempting to transport relief supplies to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua on Dec. 31, 1972.

Having said that, I am a huge fan of “Roberto Clemente Day” which was established by Major League Baseball in 2002 to pay homage to the Hall of Famer’s legacy. The award, which went to the Astros’ Craig Biggio last year, recognizes the player who best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team. The great thing about this event is that every team gets to nominate one player for the award and the fans get to know how their on-the-field heroes are off-the-field heroes as well.

“The thing that is great for us as a family is the fact that the players strive to actually compete to win the award,” Robert Clemente Jr. said yesterday at Tropicana Field. “It’s funny. They aren’t always competing against each other on the field. I mean they are doing [community] things because they want to. But when they realize they are nominated, they truly want to win the award. They actually really want it so badly that they do more.

I would hate to think that these guys are motivated by the award itself (presented by Chevy, you don’t actually think that MLB would do something like this without a sponsor do you?), but I hope this extra recognition of these activities by the fans provides further positive reinforcement.

On hand yesterday in St. Pete, was the Rays’ nominee Carlos Pena. Pena is active in the Sports Buddies program of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The Sports Buddies program encourages young male adults to become mentors to young boys in their area by taking them to sporting events and participating in sports with them. He is also an active member in the Rays Baseball Foundation, and through Foundacion Lumen 2000 in the Dominican Republic, Pena helps get school supplies, sports equipment and medicine to underprivileged kids.

Here are the other nominees (in my mind honorees) with a portion of their community involvement:

* ARI: Brandon Webb and his wife, Alicia, started the K Foundation in 2004, which aims to improve the lives of children suffering from critical and chronic illnesses throughout Arizona by providing them with daily support and life-changing experiences. Webb has personally donated more than $200,000 to the K Foundation. Last December, Webb started Brandon’s Locker, which supplies children in hospitals with comfort items like toys, blankets, books and stuffed animals. The first Brandon’s Locker was started at St. Joseph’s and already has expanded to Steele Children’s Research Center. It will open at three more hospitals in Arizona by November of 2009. On Nov. 6, the K Foundation will invite 10 children and a parent to join Webb and Nascar Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer for Fantasy Day at Phoenix International Raceway. Earlier in the season, Webb hosted 30 children from St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center and their families for a VIP Field of Dreams Day at Chase Field. Webb provided each family with a behind-the-scenes tour of the ballpark, tickets to the game and each child a Webb jersey, baseball hat, a K Foundation T-shirt and an autographed photo.Webb’s K Foundation also funds the Field of Dreams Program, providing critically and chronically ill children with dream vacations and fantasy sports-related experiences.

* ATL: Tim Hudson and his wife Kim bring terminally-ill children to Turner Field to realize their dreams of meeting some of their favorite players. In addition, they raised more than $450,000, including a personal donation of $29,500, for the Make-A-Wish Foundation during a black-tie gala in November 2007. Around Christmas time every year, the Hudsons invite approximately 75 children, involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to a Toys “R” Us for a shopping spree. Kim, helped raise $139,249 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation during a walkathon last year. This is Tim’s third straight season as the Braves’ nominee.

* BAL: Melvin Mora has set up the Melvin Mora foundation which distributes baseball equipment and clothing to disadvantaged children throughout his home country of Venezuela. In addition, Mora and his wife, Gisele, sponsor Baltimore’s Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital’s annual golf tournament which is designed to raise proceeds to help support programs at the hospital. The Moras have helped raise more than $540,000 to purchase medical equipment, make capital improvements and purchase items such as toys and clothing for the hospital’s patients. The majority of the patients in the hospital are from low-income households and 80 percent of the children are on Medicaid.

* BOS: Kevin Youkilis and his fiancee, Enza Sambataro created the Kevin Youkilis Hits for Kids charity in September 2007. In the first year, the charity raised roughly $600,000. Hits for Kids presented checks to Christopher’s Haven, Italian Home for Children and Joslin Diabetes Center’s Pediatric Health Services totaling $250,000 following a recent home game. In addition to what Youkilis does for his own charity, he continues to be one of the team leaders in making appearances on behalf of the Red Sox, including visits to the cancer-fighting Jimmy Fund.

* CHC: Ryan Dempster is an active supporter of the Cubs’ designated charities, which focus on youth sports, children with special needs and victims of domestic violence. He’s also supported United Way of Metropolitan Chicago; visited patients at Children’s Memorial Hospital and the University of Chicago Comer’s Children’s Hospital; participated in a fundraiser for the Sheil Park playlot renovation; and visited throughout the season with children through the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Illinois. Since 2005, Dempster has sponsored an RBI team through the Union League Boys and Girls Club. RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is a youth outreach program designed to increase participation and interest in baseball and academics with inner city youths. Dempster also hosts is a charitable ticket program targeted for disadvantaged youth. Dempster purchases 500 tickets and provides $10 in Cubs dollars to each of his guests so they can enjoy lunch at the ballpark. Part of this year’s ticket program included a special Mother’s Day event. The Cubs pitcher invited kids whose moms were serving in the military or women who had just returned from serving in the Middle East. He has hosted similar groups on Father’s Day the past two years.

* CWS: Jermaine Dye’s “JDs MVPs” program hosts nine members from the Chicagoland Boys & Girls Clubs at one home game every month. In addition to receiving on-field recognition before the game, these selected members receive a “JDs MVPs” T-shirt and money for concessions during the game. They also have the opportunity to watch batting practice and visit with Dye on the field prior to the game. Dye has helped fund a youth baseball team appropriately named “Dye Hard Baseball.” Dye provided the entry fee for the team into more than eight tournaments, along with funding cleats, equipment bags, jerseys, hats, belts, socks and pants for each of the kids on the team. When the team qualified for a tournament at Walt Disney World, Dye took care of the costs for all the players and four coaches.

* CIN: Brandon Phillips has participated in several efforts spearheaded by the team’s non-profit charitable arm — the Reds Community Fund. In 2008, Phillips committed $25,000 to the baseball field renovation program at Clark Montessori School in Winton Place and became dedicated to helping inner-city children discover baseball and keep it in the urban core.

* CLE: Grady Sizemore signed a healthy six-year contract with the Tribe just before the start of the 2006 season, Sizemore included in the deal a generous annual donation to Cleveland Indians Charities (CIC). Money donated to CIC helps the organization develop and enhance youth-oriented activities and agencies that seek to make a positive impact on education and recreation programs throughout Northeast Ohio. He also recently became CIC’s spokesperson for youth baseball and softball, and he participated in an equipment drive for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund.

* COL: Jeff Francis is a “green” pitcher. As part of an effort to make Coors Field more environmentally resourceful, Francis and his wife, Allison, purchased a few hundred recycle bins and made sure they were placed around the ballpark. Recycling isn’t the only thing Francis has done in the Denver community. From teaching pitching fundamentals to children of the Boys & Girls Club to visiting patients at The Children’s Hospital, Francis has become as valuable to the community as he is to the Rockies.

* DET: Magglio Ordonez came to Detroit after the 2004 season and set up a plan to take $100,000 for each season of his deal and designate it for community initiatives supporting education and youth baseball, including the Play Baseball Detroit! program, which helps foster interest and create opportunities for kids to play baseball in the city. He also teamed up with the Detroit Tigers Foundation and the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to establish the Ordonez Family Scholarship to be awarded each year to a graduating high school senior from the predominantly Hispanic area of Southwest Detroit. He and his wife, Dagly, served as celebrity baristas at an area Starbucks to help raise more than $10,000 in support of baseball and softball field renovations in greater Detroit. Ordonez has committed the funding to renovate at least three baseball fields with Think Detroit PAL at St. Hedwig Recreation Center in southwest Detroit.

* FLA: Luis Gonzalez started in spring training this year after the passing of a paramedic/firefighter he immediately enlisted the support of Cardinals All-Star first baseman Albert Pujols. Together, they held an auction to raise funds for the family, which raised more than $5,000. The two winners were treated to a high-end dinner with Gonzalez and Pujols, and the family of the fallen firefighter spent a day at Dolphin Stadium during a Marlins game. Gonzalez also spent a considerable amount of time with a young boy at the ballpark through CBS-4’s Children’s Trust Project Adoption; served as the player spokesperson for the MLB Players’ Association’s Buses for Baseball program and got his teammates to visit and spend time with the children from Amigos for Kids; spoke to a group of soldiers from the Wounded Warriors program; provided a full slate of equipment to the Marlins’ Senior RBI Team right before it headed to the RBI World Series in Los Angeles; and, in September, he will be hosting “Uncork for a Cause,” which benefits the Florida Marlins Community Foundation.

* HOU: Lance Berkman has for eight seasons led “Berkman’s Bunch,” where Berkman hosts approximately 50 children prior to each Saturday home game, provides them with tickets to the game and gives them an opportunity for one-on-one interaction with the first baseman. From 2000-2008, approximately 4,000 children have participated in Berkman’s Bunch.

* KC: Mark Teahen has been the Kansas City spokesman and an active fundraiser for the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball, a program that enables physically and mentally challenged children to play the game on custom-designed fields, since 2006. The local program, administered by the YMCA, is building a facility in north KC. Teahen put together a benefit fashion show last January in KC, with 11 teammates and their ladies treading the runway, that raised $75,000 for the YMCA Challenger project. He plans another event next January.

* LAA: Justin Speier often stops by by the Children’s Hospital of Orange County to interact with the young patients without media attention and is active with the Make-A-Wish Foundation at Angel Stadium by hosting young fans for a day. Speier, a former Marine, is also a proud supporter of the nation’s troops, making sure he spends time with military personnel who visit Angel Stadium for special events during the season. It was Speier who caught the first pitch from local hero Master Sgt. Davey Lind before the Angels hosted the Blue Jays on the Fourth of July.

* LAD: James Loney designed Loney’s Lounge through which he invited 40 kids from RBI Los Angeles to attend a Dodgers game and a video-game party at Dodger Stadium with Loney and a few teammates. In addition to the video-game party, Loney’s Lounge has on four occasions hosted seven children from RBI Los Angeles in premium baseline seats at Dodger Stadium. The kids received a Loney’s Lounge T-shirt and met and took photos with Loney during batting practice. Loney also hosted the 2008 Dodgers Dream Foundation Bowling Extravaganza at Lucky Strike Hollywood with Brad Penny, a charity endeavor that raised about $100,000 for the Dodgers Dream Foundation.

* MIL: Jeff Suppan and his wife, Dana, donate $100,000 per season to Brewers Charities. The funds are spread out over a variety of initiatives, including two Milwaukee-area youth baseball programs, a program that provides scholarships to children attending Catholic schools whose families face financial challenges and a Christmas Party at Miller Park for Milwaukee-area kids. Suppan also continued his support for California-based Stillpoint Family Resources, which provides counseling to families in crisis, and for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which aids the families of U.S. military personnel killed in the line of duty. He donates $100 per strikeout to the fallen heroes fund, a sum matched by Brewers Charities that so far adds up to $38,200 over the past two seasons.

* MIN: Michael Cuddyer has been one of the spokesmen for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities for the past few seasons, representing them in local public service announcements and assisting the local clubs in its numerous fundraisers. Last year, he began his own fundraiser for them called the “Michael Cuddyer Celebrity Waiter Dinner.” It took place at Morton’s steakhouse in Minneapolis with many of his teammates and their wives serving as waiters. The event raised more than $30,000 in its inaugural year and was held again this year in mid-August. He also serves on the board of directors of the Twins Community Fund. As a board member, Cuddyer helps direct grant and program funds to worthy organizations and assists in organizing Twins’ players to participate in fundraisers for the organizations. The Twins outfielder has also established a community ticket program called Cuddy’s Buddies, providing Twins game tickets to thousands of economically disadvantaged youth from Minneapolis and St. Paul. Since 2006, 10,000 youth have attended a Twins game for free because of Cuddyer’s contributions.
* NYM: David Wright was the youngest Mets player in history to create a charitable organization when he established the David Wright Foundation in 2005, Wright has since seen his foundation grow into one of the game’s finest philanthropic endeavors. Wright’s foundation raises money for charity throughout the New York metropolitan area and his native Norfolk, Va., hosting events such as his “Do the Wright Thing” gala in Manhattan each winter and a bowling event for children every summer. Last year saw him host his gala, help dedicate a Mets room at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and drop into various hospitals, fire houses and police stations. He has also established an academic scholarship at Virginia Tech, despite never attending the school. During the season, Wright runs his 5-Star Kids Community Program, which allows underprivileged children to see games at Shea Stadium and helps contribute to various team-wide charitable projects. His auction packages for the Mets’ Teammates in the Community fundraiser have helped garner roughly $120,000 over the past two years.

* NYY: Johnny Damon regularly takes time out of his schedule to meet injured soldiers and their families, and he recruits teammates to join him. He is a national spokesperson for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a non-profit organization that aims to help severely wounded soldiers with their readjustment to civilian life. He is the founder of the Johnny Damon Foundation, an organization that assists local and national programs that provide leadership and growth opportunities for disadvantaged children at risk. The outfielder also hosts the Johnny Damon Celebrity Golf Classic to raise money for charities based in Orlando, Fla.

* OAK: Mark Ellis started the Putouts for Diabetes Program; for each putout he records, he makes a charitable donation to the American Diabetes Association. Ellis has donated $10,000 of his own money to the association. Additionally, Ellis in August 2007 visited and spoke with 50 children from the Fremont/Newark YMCA to promote healthy eating and increased activity in the hopes of preventing diabetes.

* PHI: Jimmy Rollins and Philadelphia Reads, in 2002, teamed up to create the “J-Roll Readers Club” for the area’s top young readers. To recognize the efforts of each of these students, Rollins hosts a pregame party at Citizens Bank Park each season to spend time with the students, read them a story and answer their questions. Rollins also plays an integral role in the Phillies’ “Be A Phanatic About Reading” program. Each January, the shortstop visits one of the program’s top-performing elementary schools alongside the Phillie Phanatic to speak to the students about the importance of reading and to encourage their efforts. Since 2006, Rollins has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Arthritis Foundation’s Summer Camp and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation through his annual Celebrity BaseBOWL tournament, attended by most Phillies players, in addition to other local athletes and celebrities. Last fall, the shortstop donated 32 computers to Philadelphia’s Olney West High School, where the students now work in what they call the “J-Roll MVP Computer Lab.” In 2007, Rollins began purchasing $7,000 in Phillies tickets as a reward for public school students in Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. Once the students arrive at the stadium, Rollins brings them onto the field during batting practice for photos and autographs.

* PIT: Jack Wilson’s offerings to the Pittsburgh community are numerous. For the fourth straight year, Wilson and his wife, Julie, hosted “Bowling with the Bucs”, which pairs Pirates players with fans in order to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia. The event raised $23,000 this year, upping the four-year total to $67,000. More than 22 wishes have been granted to children using that money. The shortstop personally donated $100,000 to the Pittsburgh Youth Network charity and also continues to run his charity, Christ First, Inc., in California.

* STL: Albert Pujols keeps busy with the Pujols Family Foundation. The sixth annual Albert Pujols Celebrity Golf Tournament is set for Monday. The foundation was formed in May 2005 which helps benefit the Down Syndrome Association of Greater St. Louis — a particularly dear cause to the slugger, because his daughter Isabella has Down Syndrome. This offseason, he will lead a third annual trip to the Dominican to help provide health care and education for children in poor areas of the country. The 2007 trip focused on dental care, while the early 2008 trip emphasized vision care.

* SD: Trevor Hoffman has donated his time, energy, position as a professional athlete and finances to multiple organizations and programs around San Diego County and has been the club’s nominee for the award on five other occasions (2000-03, ’05). He has been involved with the local chapter of the National Kidney Foundation, and Rady Children’s Hospital Nephrology, since 1996. Through the foundation, Hoffman hosts Trevor’s Kidney Kids for children to come the ballpark early to watch batting practice, visit with Hoffman and get autographs and pictures. Then Hoffman and his wife, Tracy, provide their personal dugout seats so the kids can watch the game from some of the best seats in the stadium. Hoffman also provides those seats to wounded military personnel, military families and other charities. His guests get goodie bags that include a signed item from Hoffman. This season, 215 dugout seats have been donated. And since PETCO Park opened in 2004, the Hoffmans have donated over 900 dugout seats to charities and other individuals.

* SF: Kevin Frandsen launched his “Second to None” foundation in 2007 to provide comfort to siblings of cancer patients or others who have critical illnesses. Frandsen sponsors parties, hosts families for Giants games at AT&T Park, visits with families at Stanford University’s Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and follows up with them throughout the season. Frandsen’s goal is to remind siblings that they, too, play important roles in their brother’s or sister’s illness and must not be forgotten. Frandsen also assists with the “19 for Life” Foundation, which was started by his family. It celebrates the gift that his brother DJ Frandsen was to his friends, family and community by benefiting worthy causes that helped shape his life. DJ was born on May 19, his favorite number was 19 and he fought his illness for 19 years.

* SEA: Raul Ibanez has been a major part of helping host the annual Mariners Care Golf Tournament to benefit the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. After bringing in more than $190,000 this year, the tournament has now raised $4.2 million for cystic fibrosis research since it began in 1986. Ibanez has also been involved with the “Refuse to Abuse” campaign, which works to encourage a commitment to prevent violence in relationships. He also has supported Esperanze, an organization that supplies health care and educational chances along with other services to poor families in Latin America.
Ibanez and wife Tery have also been involved with the Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program, which helps obtain new books for at-risk children within the state of Washington.

* TEX: Kevin Millwood not only can throw a baseball 90 mph, but it can also wield a hammer as well. He was doing just that when he went up on a roof to help finish a Habitat for Humanity house last offseason. Through the Rangers Foundation, he underwrites the Arlington Police Athletic League, allowing the funding for the Police Department to host a four week camp to help change the direction for many youngsters who do not have a strong support system at home. In addition to underwriting of one of the Habitat for Humanity houses the Rangers built, he is making a substantial donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Arlington in the 2008 building campaign. Last season, he made a substantial contribution to the Mike Coolbaugh Memorial Fund.

* TOR: Vernon Wells again served as an honorary commissioner for the Rookie League, an eight-week league, which was created by the Jays Care Foundation, which provides free baseball for children living in Toronto Community Housing. More than 400 children participated in the program this year. In August, they all had the chance to spend some time with Wells during the league’s wrap-up event at Rogers Centre, where the center fielder signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered all of the kids’ questions. Wells’ donations this year provided a new baseball glove to each child, along with a T-shirt, lunches throughout the program, and a backpack filled with school supplies. In addition to the league, Wells has also participated in all of the Jays Care Foundation’s major events this year. He attended the annual Charity Golf Tournament, as well as the Field of Dreams Gala and the annual Reverse Draw, all of which have been successful in raising money for charity.

* WAS: Joel Hanrahan is only in his first full season in the majors but is already deeply involved working with the American Red Cross. When Hanrahan saw the devastation created by the floods in Iowa this summer, he took on this cause and spearheaded a campaign in the Washington, D.C., area to raise awareness and money for the organization’s disaster relief efforts. Hanrahan, an Iowa native, mobilized an aggressive fundraising campaign at Nationals Park, which included television and radio. He helped organize an online auction with valuable game-used items and experience packages, recorded public service announcements for television and radio and promoted a week-long collection at the gates at Nationals Park. Hanrahan’s efforts helped raise $11,000 for the cause.

Thank you to all of these great humans.

Top of the 2nd
The Mets, scored six times in the 1st behind a Ryan Church grand slam and Brian Schneider’s solo homer and coasted to a 9-2 victory to sweep a three-game series from the Brewers. Oliver P