Blog: MLB B.A.T. Dinner 2014
Sometimes the opportunity to meet our childhood heroes is too great to pass up, despite the prospects of blizzard-like conditions that threaten to put the entire experience in utter jeopardy. Braving the coldest day of an already blustery winter, hundreds of determined attendees headed to Times Square’s Marriott Marquis on Tuesday night, equipped with bags filled with baseballs, old cards, and other items for signing in anticipation of shaking hands with their favorite athletes. While the 25th Anniversary of the Baseball Assistance Team’s ‘Going to Bat for B.A.T. Dinner’ allowed longtime fans the opportunity to hob nob with ex-players, it’s the work that the organization does the other 364 days a year utilizing the funds raised on this night that makes the annual dinner all the more special.
The Baseball Assistance Team launched back in 1986 and for our readers, the group might sound familiar because it’s our third year in covering the important cause (2012, 2013). Through a variety of different initiatives, B.A.T. works to provide confidential grants to former ballplayers that have fallen on harder times, often assisting players and their families with financial or medical assistance at a time when they don’t have anywhere else to turn. These are hardly the players that you hear about signing $200 million contracts- instead, these are the day-to-day grinders, bouncing between the minors and the big leagues for much of their careers, playing for the love of the game and hopeful that their next call up will be the one that sticks.
Former major leaguer Tike Redman is one such player whose life was drastically altered through a grant from B.A.T. The mostly part time player fought for playing time with the Pirates and the Orioles through age 30, but when his daughter Jalyn was diagnosed with cancer and was faced with a year of chemotherapy among the mounting costs of raising two other daughters, Redman was left with little choice. He urgently needed help. The entire Redman family was in attendance on Tuesday evening, celebrating four cancer free years, and providing another testimonial for B.A.T.’s incredible resources as the nonprofit was able to provide funding for the family’s mortgage and utilities during the course of that year- at a time when the Redmans were left with little hope. That’s the kind of impact that B.A.T. has on its former players.
With the conditions being harsh outside, more than 75 baseball players past and present still managed to make it out to the Marriott, kicking off at 5:30pm with an interactive autograph signing and cocktail hour for fans. Many guests formed lines awaiting the arrival of four to five players per autograph table, while others helped themselves to the open bar and food offerings from meats and cheeses to shredded chicken tacos, pigs in a blanket, and freshly prepared pastas being served around the massive room. The current and former players that made it out for the signing session: Jim Leyritz, Bret Boone, Sean Casey, Reggie Smith, Adam Jones, Rusty Staub, Jay Payton, Steve Garvey, Cleon Jones, John Franco, Tim Teufel and Jim Eisenreich to name a few- all graciously posed for pictures and casually chatted with fans, while the likes of David Cone could be seen toward the back of the room doing more of the same in a more relaxed fashion. Meanwhile, philanthropic attendees were also welcomed to bid on dozens of silent auction items ranging from historic autographed jerseys, baseballs, and rare photographs from Hall of Famers and pop culture icons placed in the center of the main space.
As the cocktail hour concluded, fans were ushered into the main ballroom for a three course dinner during the evening’s awards presentation and program, honoring former MLB Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner (B.A.T. Lifetime Achievement Award) who passed away in November following a battle with brain cancer, Jimmy Rollins (Big B.A.T. / Frank Slocum Award) and Michael Young (Bart Giamatti Award) for their efforts in community service, and Commissioner Bud Selig (Bud Selig Leadership Award). Unfortunately the three accepted their awards via video as the weather had kept them out of New York City, but Weiner’s wife and his three surviving daughters graciously accepted his posthumous award in person, which was fittingly emotional following a video package shown in his honor.
The evening was emceed by MLB Network studio analysts Matt Vasgergian and Harold Reynolds, both of whom kept the program moving along fluidly despite the absence of some players and some empty seats in the audience- naturally resulting from the conditions outside. Highlighting the dinner was the arrival of 4 Hall of Famers to the stage as Roberto Alomar, Rollie Fingers, Orlando Cepeda and the legendary Tommy Lasorda were welcomed out for a photo opportunity and a brief chat with the hosts. Lasorda, still as chipper as ever, was also accepting the Bobby Murcer Award for the National League’s Los Angeles Dodgers for the team donating the most toward B.A.T. in the calendar year- Gene ‘Stick’ Michael, alongside Michael Kay, accepted on behalf of the New York Yankees as the American League representatives.
The Baseball Assistance Team’s ‘Going to Bat for B.A.T. Dinner’ is among the finest events that we make sure to attend each year in that the names that attend are larger than life and the stories and the players that you learn about are inspiring and real. The funds raised on this night actually support these people and their families directly and provide some true relief in some dire circumstances. Whatever the reason fans decide to attend- be it for generosity or for the chance to connect with their heroes- the focus of the organization and its importance is never forgotten during the course of this special evening year after year.