Baseball continues to assist storm relief efforts

Baseball continues to assist storm relief efforts

Baseball continues to assist storm relief efforts
The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy has taken a toll on communities where Major League Baseball teams live alongside fans as neighbors and friends, and now many of those neighbors and friends need some help to recover and rebuild.

It takes a team to get through a crisis like the damage inflicted in late October, and baseball's team of teams, players and fans around the country, is gathering forces to help assist those in need in the wake of the "superstorm" that hit with such impact in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere on the Eastern seaboard and inland areas.

To that end, Major League Baseball announced that in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Association a donation of $1 million is being made to benefit the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Feeding America to assist in the efforts being made to help those affected most by the storm. In addition, relief efforts have by MLB, its clubs and employees been ongoing to deliver truckloads of supplies and administer help to devastated areas.

"As our thoughts and prayers remain with all those who have been impacted by this tragedy, it is a privilege for Major League Baseball to support our fans and their communities during this urgent time of need," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "All of us at Major League Baseball are grateful to our society's leaders, first responders and volunteers, and we hope that our contribution to these humanitarian organizations will assist in the vital relief efforts along the East Coast. This is a time when the resiliency of the great American spirit will prevail."

Said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner: "Natural disasters know no boundaries, and this one was a direct hit that affected many in the MLBPA's office personally. On behalf of the MLBPA and its members, we are honored to join with the Commissioner's Office in making this contribution to support the efforts of organizations working around the clock to help provide various forms of relief and assistance to those suffering in the aftermath of the storm, including many of our friends and neighbors in need."

The message from Major League Baseball, its players, its 30 teams and MLB.com is simple: Please donate to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Feeding America. Help your neighbors and friends, and be a part of the team bringing relief where it's needed.

On Thursday, 62 more boxes filled with warm clothing and supplies were packed onto a truck at the Commissioner's Office in Manhattan and driven to hard-hit areas in New Jersey. The first stop was to a social services community center in Hoboken, a heavily flooded square-mile town on the Hudson River. From there it was down the turnpike to the Jersey Shore, where a major delivery was dropped off at The Foodbank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, a facility whose wide coverage area was in the bulls-eye of Sandy.

Carlos Rodriguez, executive director of The Foodbank, said his operation has been inundated with help since the storm through bulk truck dropoffs, like one semi that showed up unsolicited from Indiana. The Foodbank works with more than 250 emergency food programs, pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and low-income day care centers, so they can connect to people in need and will immediately disperse the contents from MLB and clubs as cold weather sets in for many whose lives are in disarray.

"What we experienced here at the Jersey Shore was a storm within a superstorm," Rodriguez said. "We were already just trying to figure out the struggle that the economic crisis left us, and then the storm has compounded that even more. To make it worse, it's right before the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Normally, we would be serving one in 10 of the residents in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, or about 127,000 people -- even before the disaster. Immediately after the disaster, we were able to open up our shops, and we've been open continuously every day, serving upwards of 460,000 meals since Hurricane Sandy. But we've had to do dual efforts -- not only provide the immediate relief because of the storm, but to also make sure that those who can and have a table can have a Thanksgiving next week."

Rodriguez encouraged citizens to donate at foodbankmoc.org, as $10 allows them to provide more than 30 meals.

"We've dealt with the immediate sadness of the disaster, but I think the entire community is really gearing up to rebuild, and to recover our beloved Jersey Shore," he said. "We're in this for the long haul. Today, and now more than ever, we need to make sure The Foodbank and the network of charities that we work with stay strong, so we can make sure that Jersey stays strong."

Leo Pellegrini, director of health and human services for the City of Hoboken, oversaw the reception of many boxes off the MLB truck and said the contents would be distributed to the people in need, those who have lost their clothing and supplies.

"We've been getting a lot of supplies from members of the community and outside the state of New Jersey, so we've kind of staged this area since it was devastated by Hurricane Sandy," He said. "It was a grueling experience, but you have to thank the public safety -- they came through in a big spot for us. All the community members came in and helped, especially our volunteers -- going into buildings where we didn't have power for seven days. Our volunteers were delivering food to our seniors who could not go from the 14th floor all the way to the first floor."

On Nov. 9, MLB delivered several vans filled with warm-weather clothing, non-perishable food and supplies to the hard-hit area of Far Rockaway in the New York City borough of Queens. The first drop-off was at the Food Bank Distribution Center in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, where long food lines were common from corner to corner. Then the caravan went to St. Mary Star of the Sea and St. Gertrude Parish, forming an assembly line of boxes that were then sorted into care packages for the long line there.

There was no power anywhere in sight, there were 6 p.m. ET curfews and arrests, there was looting and robberies and broken lights whenever emergency lights were set up at night. There were cries of frustration within a community looking for support.

"It's horrific," said Rosemary Lopez, associate executive director for program services at the Advocacy Center of Queens County, a group that helped MLB get supplies into the right hands. "People are suffering. To the people who follow Major League Baseball, we could really use more food, clothing, water, whatever you can spare. Out here, they just don't have it. Nothing's open. No stores, absolutely nothing."

Joanne Murray, a full-time volunteer handling the processing of relief supplies at St. Mary of the Sea, said her church has been "so blessed with people from all over the country coming through. The need is very great."

"They mostly need food, diapers, wipes, toilet paper, flashlights, batteries," Murray said. "Now we have to look at cleaning supplies, because once lights come back on, people need those. Some people are going to need financial help as well. Our parish has a big number of undocumented people here, people who can't pay their rent. We also need to fund their short-term financial needs."

With the Commissioner's Office and MLBPA headquartered in Manhattan, two storied teams in New York and about one-third of Major League cities directly affected by the storm, this obviously is a disaster that struck home for baseball. But it's one that touches every community in some way, and baseball is gathering its resources to help.

Living right in the path of the destruction, the Yankees were among the first clubs to step up to support relief efforts, pledging $500,000 to the American Red Cross and spearheading a blood drive Friday that included tickets to a 2013 game for those who made donations to the New York Blood Center.

"As a neighbor and community member, the Yankees embrace our role of stepping forward and assisting the American Red Cross, which comes to the aid of so many people through their tireless efforts," Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement announcing the donation.

Clearly, it's going to take more than the hometown team to help, and baseball's all about teamwork.

One team that already has pledged its support took team concept to the sport's pinnacle: the Giants, 2012 World Series champions after an October in which they showed resilience on a baseball field that was historic -- but nothing compared to the resilience needed now in areas hit hard by Sandy.

And so it was that the Giants' victory celebration -- on the steps of City Hall before the crowd of about one million that attended the parade -- began with thoughts and prayers for people on the other side of the country needing help.

"As we gather together as a community today to celebrate this joyous occasion," emcee Renel Brooks-Moon said as she began the presentation, "we do want to take a moment first to recognize those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and mourn the lives lost from this disaster.

"Of course, the Giants share a rich and deep history with New York, so all of us, our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone on the East Coast affected by this disaster."

Brooks-Moon then announced to the huge crowd gathered at Civic Center Plaza that Giants players are planning to make many donations -- with the Giants organization matching those donations, dollar for dollar. And she urged fans to join the effort by donating to the American Red Cross.

"Just think," she said. "Everybody here today, one dollar from all of us, what that can do. That can really, really help."

It takes neighbors coming together to help, and it really can add up.

The Oakland A's -- the Giants' neighbor in the Bay Area -- announced that the team's Community Fund is accepting monetary donations to help those affected by Sandy. They'll be sending the proceeds to the Salvation Army, which is providing mobile feeding units, shelters and clean-up kits, and the Humane Society of the United States, which is helping animal rescue teams and providing supplies to animal shelters.

Team by team, fan by fan, neighbor by neighbor, baseball can help the relief effort following one of the worst natural disasters in the nation's history.

In the days and weeks ahead, baseball will be part of the healing process for the region devastated by Superstorm Sandy, and the message will continue to be spread on MLB.com and MLB Network and in every possible way in every city in Major League Baseball's vast neighborhood of teams and fans:

Please donate to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Feeding America.

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.