SECAUCUS, N.J. — Ron Darling grew up in Massachusetts as a weekend regular at a Boys & Girls Club, so it was like old times when he and fellow MLB Network analyst Dan Plesac finished taping their nightly “Hot Stove” show and walked out onto the Studio 42 field and greeted 25 kids from the Educational Alliance and Boys & Girls Club.
The kids were there for Major League Baseball’s annual Winter Wishes event — an example of how MLB and all 30 clubs are bringing holiday happiness to communities all over. The boys and girls were treated to dinner in the cafeteria, followed by a show from magician Randy Masters, then the visit by the former big league pitchers, then a Wiffle ball game on the field, and then the main event — presents from Santa Claus. MLB employees provided the gifts.
“These kids are in Lower Manhattan, and there are some tough areas there, and the Boys & Girls Club gives them kind of a refuge from some of that madness,” Darling said. “I know when I was a kid, my parents worked on the weekends, so they used to drop my brother and I off at the Boys & Girls Club in Massachusetts. He and I had just a brilliant time there every weekend, and it was a lot of fun. These kids are having just as much fun.”
Tom Brasuell, MLB’s vice president of community affairs, welcomed the kids in the cafeteria after their late-afternoon arrival in the snow, noting that Educational Alliance has nine Boys & Girls Clubs in Lower Manhattan. Then Carlos Polanco, the 2017-18 Boys & Girls Clubs of America National Youth of the Year who attended the Boys & Girls Club in nearby Clifton, spoke to the kids, telling them he represented 4.3 million young people, including them. Mr. Met and elves helped Santa hand out gifts.
“They were elated, they were excited,” Shawnia White, program coordinator of the Educational Alliance, said as the kids played ball behind her and program director Johnale Emery. “Many of them have never been to a baseball game, so they came here and their eyes lit up and they were smiling ear to ear.”
Meanwhile, all clubs were piling on the festivities at this time of year. Here are some of the examples, and you can go to each official team site’s homepage to see many others:
The Twins culminated their 12th annual Holiday Week of Giving on Friday morning as volunteers tutored Reading Partners students who need to make up a session that they missed during the week. Reading Partners works with the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts to ensure more students are obtaining grade-level reading skills. The week also featured volunteer events with Sheridan Story Food Packing on Monday, American Cancer Society Hope Lodge on Tuesday, Sharing and Caring Hands on Wednesday, and a “Home for the Holidays” MAC-V event on Thursday — connecting homeless veterans with service providers.
On Friday afternoon, Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall once again transformed into the North Pole when the club hosted its eighth annual Bronx Winter Wonderland. It treated several thousand local youth to a holiday extravaganza complete with holiday decorations, festive music, food and drink, and a gift for each child in attendance. The Yankees and Neil and Amanda Friedman — who each made a contribution in the amount of $25,000 — partnered with Toys “R” Us, American Foliage and Legends Hospitality to hold the event.
The Padres Holiday Caravan 12 Days of Giving concludes on Saturday, as the club hosts Rally Camps’ youth softball clinic at Petco Park before participating in the San Diego Cares Blood Drive organized by the San Diego Blood Bank. Padres Kirby Yates and Alex Dickerson will be on hand to interact with about 75 camp participants from groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, RBI Softball, USO, Marine Corps Recruit Depot and McGrath Family YMCA.
Afterwards, the caravan heads to the San Diego Cares Blood Drive, sponsored by the Padres and hosted by the San Diego Blood Bank at the Town and Country Convention Center. Yates and Dickerson, along with Padres alumni Greg Vaughn, Wally Joyner, Steve Finley and Chris Gomez, will be on site at the blood drive. From 2-3 p.m. PT, Vaughn, Joyner, Finley and Gomez — members of the Padres’ 1998 National League championship team — will participate in a Q&A with the donors, followed by an autograph session from 3-4 p.m. with the current and former Padres players in attendance.
The Rangers will host their annual Cowboy Santas Toy Drive Finale Event from 4-7 p.m. CT on Monday at Globe Life Park. This marks the seventh consecutive year in which the Rangers have been involved in the holiday initiative, which provides toys to children from low-income Tarrant County families during the holiday season. Honorary chair Delino DeShields will be joined by other Rangers personalities scheduled to include Elvis Andrus, Shin-Soo Choo, Nick Gardewine, Matt Bush, Joey Gallo, Robinson Chirinos and Steve Buechele.
The Rangers’ ongoing offseason outreach also includes annual visits to CookChildren’s Hospital in Fort Worth on Monday and Children’s Health Medical Center in Dallas on Tuesday. In addition, former Rangers pitcher Darren Oliver and his wife, Melissa, on Thursday hosted 12 families who are part of Arlington Urban Ministries S.A.F.E. (Securing Arlington’s Families on the Edge) Program at Globe Life Park. Families gathered in the Kid’s Zone to enjoy photos with Santa and various activities. They also received a meal in the Rebecca Creek Saloon, provided by SportsService. The Olivers provided each family unit with a $200 Visa gift card, in addition to a $50 gift card for each child in the family.
The Phillies’ commitment to giving back continues during their #SeasonOfGiving. Over a dozen separate events are planned, aimed at celebrating the holidays and giving thanks to the community. One of the many events includes the annual Bethesda Project Holiday Meal, which was on Dec. 8. An annual tradition for the Phillies family, this was the 17th year the club’s front office prepared and served meals to the homeless at Bethesda Project’s Our Brother’s Place.
On Friday, the Phillie Phanatic and friends joined the Toyota Tundra Food Drive, donating food to benefit Philabundance. Monday is Toy Fest, supporting the Salvation Army, as well as the Phillies Charities, Inc. Holiday Party, which honors 2017 Phillies Charities, Inc. grant recipients. There are 28 grant recipients honored this year.
The Red Sox brought the warmth and cheer of the holiday season to patients at Boston-area hospitals and children at a baseball training academy with the 2017 Holiday Caravan on Thursday and Friday. Joining in were Red Sox players Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Brian Johnson, Austin Maddox, Deven Marrero and Robby Scott, plus new manager Alex Cora. The Caravan stopped at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Shriners Hospital for Children and MassGeneral Hospital for Children, as well as a visit to The BASE, an academy that provides young baseball players with coaching and academic and life skills training.
In celebration of the holiday spirit, the Tigers treated nearly 50 children and teens in need from Black Family Development and the South Oakland Shelter to a special holiday dinner at Lakeside Grille at Macy’s in Oakland Mall, followed by a surprise holiday shopping spree inside Oakland Mall on Monday. Each of the 50 participants received a loaded gift card with $125 to spend at the mall. Tigers broadcaster Dan Dickerson, along with FOX Sports Detroit broadcaster Rod Allen and the PAWS mascot, joined the families for an evening of holiday cheer. The night was made possible as a result of contributions from Allen, Tigers front-office staff, the Detroit Tigers Foundation and Delaware North Companies SportService.
The Orioles and OriolesREACH were host to 80 third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School of Southeast Baltimore on Tuesday for the 39th annual OriolesREACH Holiday Party at Dave & Busters in the Arundel Mills Mall. O’s players Tim Beckham, Trey Mancini and Mike Wright attended, along with Santa Bird and former Orioles Larry Bigbie, Al Bumbry and Scott McGregor. Players helped serve lunch, played games, signed autographs and took photos with children. The Orioles also donated and distributed holiday gifts, including knit hats, youth bat and ball sets, games, backpacks and books.
The Mets, in partnership with UnitedHealthcare, collected new and gently used coats on Wednesday for New York Cares to distribute to those in need. Fans donating one coat or more receive a voucher redeemable for two tickets to a select Mets home game in April and enjoy a day-of discount at the Mets Team Store. On Dec. 7, the Mets held their annual Kids’ Holiday Party, where more than 100 elementary-school students from local schools played games, enjoyed lunch, performed holiday songs and received gifts. The club also conducted its Mets Holiday Shopping Spree sponsored by Delta Air Lines, benefiting 10 kids from underprivileged families.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hosted a mega-event in his native Puerto Rico with the second Yadier Molina Home Run Derby & Celebrity Softball Game on Saturday. This fun-filled charity event benefiting Foundation 4, a nonprofit organization founded by Yadier and his wife, Wanda Torres, in 2010, helped raise hurricane relief aid for Puerto Rico.
The Astros hosted the second annual Home Plate for the Holidays free event at Minute Maid Park on Dec. 3. Fans had their first of many opportunities to have their photo taken with the 2017 World Series Trophy at this year’s event. Proceeds benefited the Astros Foundation.