ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball is dedicating a rare and widely viewed Game 7 of the 107th World Series to its ongoing Tornado Relief initiative, extending its community outreach that began with themes dedicated to each of the first four Rangers-Cardinals games.
"We are a social institution, and it isn't that we should be doing these things, we ought to be privileged, and we are privileged to do it," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "So we are working with them in great detail ... [in] providing assistance to the victims of this horrible tragedy."
This touches especially close to home at the site of the World Series finale, about 250 miles from the Joplin area that was devastated on May 22 by one of the deadliest and costliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history. In the Joplin community of about 50,000, a total of 162 citizens perished, many more were injured and nearly 7,000 homes were destroyed.
In addition, more than 300 tornadoes spawned by a powerful storm system on April 26-27 wiped out entire towns across a wide swath of the South, killing nearly 400 people. Alabama's state emergency management agency reported the most destruction, followed closely by Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia.
MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Trust made a $200,000 financial contribution that helped to treat nearly 6,000 people during the critical days and weeks following the tornado through Heart to Heart, which was one of the early responders after the Joplin tornado. Habitat for Humanity regional affiliates are working with the Joplin area to rebuild homes in time for families to move in by Thanksgiving and will continue rebuilding efforts beyond this initial phase.
Children from the Joplin South Little League who participated in the 2011 Junior RBI Classic in Phoenix during All-Star Week were recognized prior to Game 7. Chris Daughtry performed the national anthem. Country music artist David Nail, who is performing "God Bless America" and is from Missouri, headlined a disaster relief concert in May 2011.
The Little Leaguers stood in a line behind Daughtry as he sang the last of nearly 2,500 "Star-Spangled Banner" renditions this season. Afterwards, they were each given goody bags with MLB merchandise, and they shouted like happy kids as they walked past the visitors' clubhouse when the game was about to start.
"It was just amazing," said Jake Young, a 12-year-old "all-position" player on the team. "There's no real other way to describe it. This is so cool. It's my first time being at Busch Stadium and first time at professional anything. We are so glad to be here."
"I'm speechless," said Tom Owen, coach of the Joplin Little League team, as he watched the Cardinals' batting practice before Game 7. "To think that Major League Baseball cares enough about us to bring this level of attention at Game 7 in order to help us means a great deal. One thing you worry about is people going away, and it is not happening."
Owen took his team to Phoenix for All-Star Week to participate in the RBI Tournament, and he said 11 out of 12 players who went there had lost their homes. It was so typical of the loss experienced in their community, but he said they are bouncing back.
"Everything has been pretty much bulldozed and cleaned up, and it is kind of eery when you see a big open space where there used to be homes and it's like a park in Joplin now," Owen said. "But that is the necessary step for us, and we are making progress."
Habitat for Humanity is based in Americus, Ga., and was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda. The nonprofit has helped build more than 400,000 affordable houses and served more than two million people worldwide.
Heart to Heart International is headquartered in Olathe, Kan., and has mobilized and equipped thousands of volunteers to create healthier communities in the U.S. and more than 60 countries. Heart to Heart is improving global health through initiatives that connect people and resources to a world in need.
The dedication of Game 7 to Tornado Relief extends MLB's overall community initiative program. For the third year in a row, the first four games were each dedicated to a different initiative to help others and make the world a better place.
Game 1 was for veterans and military families, with Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden participating and a focus on Welcome Back Veterans. Game 2 was community service and the Roberto Clemente Award. Game 3 was all about youth, helping Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Game 4 was about cancer research and raising funding and awareness for Stand Up To Cancer.