News Bytes: Catching Up On the Week’s Stories

The 24 Hours of Booty tops this week’s news bytes. The official 24 hour cycling event of the Lance Armstrong Foundation is getting some help from NASCAR driver and avid cyclist Bobby Labonte. After the jump, we’ve got bytes on LeBron James, Brandon Webb, Diego and others.

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24 Hours of Booty: 24 Hours of Booty, which runs the Official 24-Hour Cycling Event of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the only 24-hour road cycling charity event in the country, has partnered with NASCAR driver Bobby Labonte’s Breaking Limits marketing agency to help acquire new corporate partnerships. Labonte: “I’m an avid cyclist, and a supporter of the Lance Armstrong Foundation and LIVESTRONG campaign, so the 24 Hours of Booty rides truly align with what I believe in and support” (24 Hours of Booty).

Take the jump to read more of this week’s bytes. [Read more…]

Quick Hits: Jimmie Johnson Stops By Habitat Homes in California; Red Sox Hit the Links

Jimmie Johnson Foundation

This weekend’s NASCAR stop at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., gives three-time defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson the chance to return his roots.

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Bill Center wrote that “as usual, Johnson is visiting the site of the four Habitat for Humanity homes his foundation is building near downtown El Cajon” (Bill Center, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/19).

Red Sox: What’s a trip Florida without a little bit of golf? The Boston Red Sox are taking a break from spring training today to participate in the 16th annual Red Sox Hit the Links Tournament to support the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona: “It’s for a good cause. We’re raising a lot of money for charity and it’s something we do with a smile” (Joe McDonald, Providence Journal, 2/20).

Cole Hamels and Wife Start Foundation, Will Pursue Girls School in Malawi

Cole Hamels SI Cover

Philadelphia Philles P Cole Hamels and his wife Heidi have started The Hamels Foundation, which will focus on AIDS in Africa and education in Africa and Philadelphia. Then after spring training workouts in Clearwater yesterday, Hamels told reporters that the couple is trying to adopt a child from Ethiopia (Morning Call, 2/19).

SI:Hamels is also the coverboy for the current issue of Sports Illustrated. SI’s Ben Reiter touches the couple’s plans, “under the auspices of the fledgling Hamels Foundation, to build a girls’ school in Malawi.” Heidi Hamels “has made a couple of monthlong research trips there” (Ben Reiter, Sports Illustrated, 2/23 issue).

Rays Manager Joe Maddon Talks About Community in United Way Clip

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon is featured in a United Way of Tampa Bay video, in which he talks about giving, sharing and community.

One of the many highlights of the video is when Maddon recalls a time a woman approached him at an outreach event at the Salvation Army in St. Petersburg.

Maddon: “This one lady comes up and talks about her daughter that had just made the cheerleading squad. But she was unable to buy sneakers for her to participate. But this year Champs came on board with us, and Champs Sporting Goods provided sneakers for all the kids in attendance. And this lady is pretty much in tears over a $35-40 pair of sneakers.

“So again, we take so many things for granted. And when you get out there and you’re able to interact with the people like that, then you really get an idea of what’s going on” (United Way of Tampa Bay).

Video added to YouTube: December 16, 2009

Mike Sweeney Helps Organize Baseball Camp to Help Family Involved in Christmas Eve Massacre

Mike Sweeney

The L.A. Times’ Lance Pugmire wrote under the header, “Mike Sweeney Answers a Call for Help.”

Pugmire: “A student from Sweeney’s alma mater, Ontario High, was asking for help. Michael Ortiz, one of the school’s baseball players, had been among the nine killed in a Christmas Eve massacre in Covina. … He and his mother, Alicia, a former sister-in-law of the heavily armed gunman, were left dead along with the boy’s grandparents, three of his aunts and two uncles.”

Sweeney, now with the Seattle Mariners, said, “When I heard the story repeated to me; when they told me Michael valued himself as a student first and athlete second, like myself, and that he was a wonderful Catholic kid who lived his faith, it absolutely broke my heart.”

After the call, Sweeney turned his “focus to a baseball camp organized to raise funds for Michael Ortiz’s family.”

During the event, which was held on Saturday, Sweeney was joined by “some of his major league friends,” including Geoff Blum, Eddie Guardado and Jeremy Reed, “plus a few current and former professional athletes from the Inland Valley.”

Ontario High student advisor Jen Munoz said, “Mike Sweeney has been so active, working harder than myself and other organizers, and everyone who calls me to donate something says what a good heart he has, that they’d do anything for Mikey.’ ”

Sweeney: “I love helping out, putting a smile on someone’s face. I guess the easiest thing in the world for me to do with that phone call was to put a check in the mail and say, ‘God bless.’ [But] sometimes, people need more than a check” (Lance Pugmire, L.A. Times, 2/6). Read Pugmire’s entire article from the L.A. Times

Photo credit: Athleticscast

MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities Celebrates 20 Years; Loney and Crisp Reflect on Program

Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities

MLB.com’s Ben Platt wrote that Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) celebrated its 20th anniversary on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Founded in 1989, the organization, which “helps keep kids involved in both baseball for boys and softball for girls, … has grown from the original 12 teams organized in South Central Los Angeles to more than 240 worldwide programs.”

RBI Founder John Young: “It’s seems like just yesterday, we were running around with 11 kids. I look at how Major League Baseball has helped expand it 240 programs, 250,000 kids, it’s just mind boggling.”

Quotable: Kansas City Royals OF Coco Crisp: “Without RBI I wouldn’t be in the big leagues. There are so many other things that people can get into during their free time. I guess I found a lot of other places to play, but RBI helped me on the baseball field and as well in the classroom and I like to give back.”

Los Angeles Dodgers 1B James Loney, another RBI alum, said, “I think it’s great and I think it works both ways. I think they can see, ‘here’s a guy playing in the Major Leagues,’ and at that age these kids think anything is possible and you want to provide that example, so they continue to work and have fun” (Ben Platt, MLB.com, 2/6). Read the entire MLB.com article

Featuring Former Big Leaguers, Arizona Baseball Charities Event Helps Regional Little League Teams

Buddy Schultz

In Phoenix, Mike Sakal wrote that the 17th annual Arizona Baseball Charities Celebrity Game is slated for Sunday, and will “feature about 50 former major leaguers, including” Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

This year, Arizona Baseball Charities “is poised to surpass $800,000 in donations to Little League teams over the years.”

Arizona Baseball Charities Executive Director Buddy Schultz, a former big leaguer, said, “What would you do if your team got $5,000? That money could go a long way. Every bit helps.”

Show Me the Money: Sakal noted that “simply by showing up with 50 people or more, 43 teams or leagues will receive $300.” Then “during the seventh inning of the game, a drawing will determine a $5,000 winner.” Two teams “will win $2,500 and 10 teams will win $1,000.”

The money “is aimed at helping to further a team’s ‘field of dreams,’ whether it’s building a field, purchasing new equipment or simply keeping the field’s lights on.”

Showing Appreciation: Mesa’s Red Mountain Little League President Jeff Tush said, “It’s great for the kids and great for the teams. By receiving the money, it helps us pay for some things we wouldn’t be able to get otherwise, and it helps us not to raise registration fees for kids to play” (Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 2/5). Read the entire piece from East Valley Tribune

Photo credit: Buddy Schultz :: Official Web Site

MLB Commemorating Lou Gehrig’s Famous Speech With ALS Awareness Campaign

Lou Gehrig

MLB.com’s Barry Bloom reported that MLB has launched the “4*ALS Awareness” campaign to the commemorate the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous speech.

MLB “has teamed with four major non-profit organizations to find a cure for the illness that destroys the nerve cells controlling muscles, causes complete paralysis and ultimately leads to death an average of 3-5 years after diagnosis.” The campaign “will culminate with Gehrig’s words being read at all Major League ballparks where games are played this coming July 4, during the seventh-inning stretch.”

“For the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break I got. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. I have been in ballparks for 17 years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.”
— Lou Gehrig, July 4, 1939

Bloom added that as part of the commemoration, MLB “will ask all players to wear a ‘4*ALS’ patch on their chest.”

Teaming Up: The four participating organizations are The ALS Association, ALS TDI, Augie’s Quest (the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s ALS research initiative), and Project A.L.S. MLB.com will also conduct an online auction to raise funds for the initiative (Barry Bloom, MLB.com, 2/3). Read the entire MLB.com piece

Photo credit: Lou Gehrig :: The Official Web Site

Chicago Cubs Documentary Production Selling Fans Closing Credit Mentions for Charity

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MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat reported that, in what is “believed to be the first time a film production has undertaken active viewer participation to support charities,” Chicago Cubs fans can “show their support for their team and the city of Chicago as well as help others by adding their name to the closing credits” of the documentary “We Believe — Chicago and its Cubs,” to be released in spring 2009.

Muskat noted that “one half of all proceeds collected will go to two Cubs-related efforts.”

The money will benefit Project 3000, an organization which Cubs 1B Derrek Lee “helped create to find people affected with Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA), a blinding eye disease.” Money will also be donated to the non-profit Little Cubs Field, “a replica of Wrigley Field scaled down to a kid-sized park” located in Freeport, Ill.

Role Player: Lee, whose daughter, Jada, “was initially misdiagnosed” with LCA, said, “I’m excited to be part of this project at every level — as a participant and, even more important, as a parent who knows how much it will mean to other families who are struggling with this devastating disease” (Carrie Muskat, MLB.com, 2/4). Read the entire article from MLB.com

Rays’ B.J. Upton Hosts First Charity Event to Help St. Petersburg Homeless and Poor

B.J. Upton

Tampa Bay Rays CF B.J. Upton hosted his first Celebrity Golf Classic to benefit The Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

MLB.com’s Bill Chastain noted that The Society of St. Vincent de Paul “provides three meals a day 365 days a year for the hungry and homeless of St. Petersburg.” The organization also provides “a night shelter and other services for those in need.”

Upton “took an interest in their work in the community and … hopes to raise money for the hungry, the homeless and the poor of St. Petersburg.”

Upton: “I wanted to do something for the community. Obviously the homeless situation in the Tampa Bay area is pretty significant. It’s just something I wanted to help out with” (Bill Chastain, MLB.com, 1/27). Read the entire MLB.com piece

Pirates Announce Fields for Kids Program to Construct and Renovate Area Ballfields

Pittsburgh Pirates Fields for Kids Program

MLB.com’s Jennifer Langosch wrote the Pittsburgh Pirates announced the “Fields for Kids” program for the Pittsburgh community at PirateFest on Saturday.

Pirates Owner Bob Nutting said that “this new grant program, which will provide matching grants from $1,000 to $5,000 for improvements, construction and renovations for baseball and softball fields in the region.”

Nutting: “I really believe that with the difficult economic times that we are headed into, it’s even more important for Pirates Charities to reach out into the community. It’s a program designed for the youth of the area to get out and play baseball in a safe, wholesome environment.”

Langosch also noted that Pirates Charities “has initially committed $100,000 to the program, which includes $25,000” from Pirates Catcher Ryan Doumit.

Doumit: “I just remember how much time I spent on a baseball field when I was that age, and the facilities that I had and the advantages that I had. Now I’m fortunate enough to be put in a position where I can give back to the community and give these kids some of the same advantages that I had. I’ve driven around and kind of seen some of these sandlots, and it doesn’t look like it is top-of-the-line-type stuff,” he continued. “I want these fields to be enjoyable and something that these kids can be proud of” (Jennifer Langosch, MLB.com, 1/24). Read the entire article from MLB.com

Photo credit: Pittsburgh Pirates

Tigers’ Miner Donates to Miracle League; Mattingly Gives Youth Batting Lessons

Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers P Zach Miner donated $10,000 on Friday to the Tri-Valley Miracle League on behalf of the Detroit Tigers Foundation.
In Michigan, Brian Brunner noted that “before the 2008 season, Miner pledged to donate $100 to charity for every strikeout he recorded. … After recording only 62 strikeouts last season, however, he decided to up the ante.”

Miner said that he chose the Tri-Valley Miracle League “because, as a father, he has a soft spot for helping children.” Miner added that he will “continue the $100-a-strikeout pledge for Tri-Valley Miracle League this season.”

The league “gives children with special needs the opportunity to play baseball” (Brian Brummer, Saginaw News, 1/23). Read the entire article from the Saginaw News

Donnie Baseball: In Indiana, Rachel Folz writes that Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly, an Evansville native, gave “a group of young baseball players” a batting lesson today in Evansville. Folz adds that “every year, Mattingly donates the lesson to Passport Adventure, a benefit auction for Youth First.”

Mattingly said that he “doesn’t teach kids too much differently than he does major leaguers” (Rachel Folz, WFIE-NBC, 1/26). Read the entire print story from WFIE-ABC