Events — 23 January 2013
Baseball Assistance Team Honors Yogi Berra at 24th Annual Gala

Blog: MLB B.A.T. Gala 2013

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When we think of Major League Baseball and its rich history, we think of larger than life characters and exceptional athletes paid exorbitant amounts of money to play a game that they love. We tend to overlook however the thousands of players over the last century with names we don’t recognize, with their careers cut short as a result of injury or circumstance, whose playing time fizzles and they are forced out of the game forever. It was with these ballplayers and their families in mind that the Baseball Assistance Team or B.A.T. was launched back in 1986, to provide support and assistance to the athletes who never landed that elusive seven figure contract or have somehow fallen on hard times since leaving the game.

On Tuesday evening, some of the brightest names from Major League Baseball’s past and present reconvened once again at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the 24th Annual B.A.T. Fundraising Dinner Gala. To date, the organization has provided more than $28 million in grants to more than three thousand members of baseball’s family- players, umpires, clubhouse attendants, wives, and children are all included. With the rehabilitation of these competitors at the forefront of B.A.T.’s initiatives, the annual event reciprocates fan donations with the incredible opportunity to hobnob with some all time greats of the game during the cocktail hour and dinner portion of the evening, with each table allocated at least one Major League player to sit alongside us regular folk.

As the cocktail hour kicked off, fans quickly formed into lines near the separate autograph tables. Each attendee was handed a baseball upon arriving into the ballroom and flashing camera bulbs began almost instantaneously as eventgoers shook hands with the likes of Rollie Fingers, Rusty Staub, Keith Hernandez, Jack Morris, John Franco, Pat Gillick, Willie Randolph, and Tommy John, to name a few as well as current stars Adam Jones and Joba Chamberlain, the 2013 recipient of the Bart Giamatti Award. Guests were also treated to pose for photos alongside the San Francisco Giants 2012 World Series Trophy, next to a blow up photo of Yogi Berra, or with the players themselves. In fact, perhaps the most remarkable part of the evening was watching the lines of grown men, holding 8×10 photos and cartons of blank baseballs for the players to sign, gathering with other likeminded fans to point out one player or another, and the sheer bliss on their faces when given a few moments to chat with the players that they grew up idolizing. Despite the fact that most of them were middle-aged, it certainly goes to show you baseball’s everlasting impact- it makes you feel like a kid again.

Once the lavish cocktail hour spread had begun to be cleared out and the autograph session had concluded, guests were ushered into the main dining ballroom, decked out with intricate chandeliers and a massive stage setup for the evening’s program. Emceed by Yankees play-by-play man Michael Kay and New York City’s elder sports anchor Len Berman, the evening’s festivities were a celebration of the life and career of the legendary Hall of Famer, Yogi Berra. The dinner kicked off with the hosts welcoming eight Hall of Fame players up to the stage for a photo opportunity- Juan Marichal, Luis Aparicio, Orlando Cepeda, Rollie Fingers, and Pat Gillick, along with Jim Palmer, Joe Morgan, and the incomparable Reggie Jackson- the three of whom were asked to remain onstage to recount stories about the recently departed Stan “The Man” Musial, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, and of course, Yogi Berra himself.

It’s certainly difficult to find a happy medium to secure fan enjoyment and excitement while in the meantime, keeping the evening’s focus at the forefront of our awareness. But despite the lofty ticket prices for fans to participate, kudos to Major League Baseball for keeping some of the forgotten warriors of the sport in our consciousness, long after the game bid them farewell- both the formidable players that may not quite have made it to the Hall of Fame that show up to meet fans at the Annual Gala and the athletes that receive the support and assistance that they need as a direct result of the proceeds earned on this night. With so many objectionable happenings that occur in the world of sports seemingly every day, it’s nice to find these positive stories where Major League Baseball does something right.

Read our full recap of last year’s 23rd Annual B.A.T. Gala Dinner.

- Jane Van Arsdale

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