Students from Hawaii to Maine and Seattle to Puerto Rico teamed up with Major League Baseball players to pitch in, help out and make the world a better place in 2009, as the Action Team youth volunteer program expanded to reach more students in more communities.
12/23/2009 10:21 AM ET
Action Team reaches thousands in '09
Volunteerism explodes in communities across America
By Jamie Bezozo / MLBPLAYERS.com
The Action Team program brings active players together with high school students at community projects, ballparks and teleconferences where they spend time working side-by-side and exchanging ideas about volunteerism and community outreach. From charity drives to fundraisers and clean-up days, young people are learning the importance of teamwork and the difference they can make.
The Players Trust and Volunteers of America began a partnership in 2002 that led to the creation of the Action Team. The program was piloted in Denver in 2003. In 2004, a second pilot team was added in Minneapolis, and, in 2005, Boston and Philadelphia had Action Teams as well. What started as three schools combining to form one Action Team has grown to nearly 160 schools in more than 50 cities.
In 2009, the Action Team program expanded through the development of an online program that allows students in communities far from Major League markets to participate and interact with players who are leaders in their own communities. More than 40 new schools have already registered for the online program and, altogether, students in nearly 160 communities participate.
The result has been a smashing success. More than 19,000 high school students have joined with 66 players to help more than 90,000 people in need.
Action Team captains are asked to create, develop and organize a minimum of two school-wide volunteer projects during the school year. After the projects are completed, the captains submit a written report about the program's process, results and their experiences.
Getting involved is simple: Teachers or a guidance counselors can download an Action Team application at MLBPLAYERS.com and return the completed form by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by the fax number noted on the application.
The free resources available to Action Team high schools include step-by-step volunteer project ideas, posters, DVDs and brochures, a subscription to the Wall Street Journal Classroom Edition, monthly teleconferences with Major Leaguers and scholarship opportunities.
The monthly conference calls are hosted and moderated by broadcaster George Grande, one of the great voices of baseball, who leads a coast-to-coast chat among a player, the students, teachers and counselors. Each conference call spotlights a featured Action Team and its dedicated, positive efforts in volunteerism and student-exchange ideas. The calls also provide progress reports about the various programs the action teams are conducting in their communities.
For example, in 2009, Manual High School in Denver held a socks drive to collect new socks for the homeless, which in turned inspired St. Anthony's in Maui to hold a flip flop drive for the same purpose.
Bloomfield Junior/Senior High School in Indiana participated in a county-wide "Clean Up Greene Country Roads Day". Tecumseh High School, also in Indiana, is building a Habitat for Humanity house, and West Boylston High School in Massachusetts held a shoe drive for the Soles for Souls organization.
The monthly teleconference calls also feature one of the many players who are active in the Action Team program. The player joins a discussion to share his insights about volunteerism and field questions from the students.
"Anybody with heart and will and love and compassion can help," Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson told students during the December teleconference. "Go where you like to help. There's so many different ways you can do it -- do what you like doing."
Granderson told the students about his community efforts as a youngster in Lansing, Ill., where he volunteered at food drives, street cleanings and church. The personable and energetic center fielder told the students his current efforts are centered on education and that he was initially inspired by his school-teacher parents.
One of the students asked Granderson, "What is the feeling or sensation you get from doing a community service or deed?" Granderson told a story about the sense of warmth and satisfaction he felt during a food drive in which he delivered a holiday meal to a family in need.
"Now this family, who was going to have nothing to eat for the holidays, had something," Granderson said. "They were so thankful and kind. It's one of those things we take for granted. There are a lot of less fortunate people who don't get that opportunity. ... If you can help someone out, even for a day, it goes such a long way."
Mark Teixeira, who led the AL with 39 homers, 344 total bases and 122 RBIs and helped the New York Yankees win their 27th World Series title in 2009, joined the November call and offered advice based on more than a decade of active community involvement as a player.
"There are very few people that go through their entire lives without needing anybody," Teixeira told the students participating in the November teleconference. "[I am] inspired to see young kids going out and really being a part of the community in their free time."
Teixeira also stressed the importance of a college education, calling his time at Georgia Tech "the best three years of [my] life."
"I would love to see all kids have a chance to go to college and have the same experience I did," he said, noting another important component of the program.
While inspiring and training the next generation of volunteers, the Action Team also strives to develop future leaders. To that end, the Players Trust is providing 40 college scholarships of $1,000 each to Action Team captains this year in recognition of their dedication to community.