It’s heartwarming to see Major League Baseball officials go beyond the lines of the trivial and mundane.
Part of the focus is on another level of heroics.
It’s traditional for politicians in cities and states to place playful wagers before major sporting events. It usually involves specialty foods from the homes of the two challengers.
Mayors Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Michael Bloomberg of New York are placing their bets on community service and not on cheesesteak or deli sandwiches.
"The last thing politicians need is more food," Nutter said during a television interview.
Here’s the bet: If the Phillies win the World Series, Bloomberg will wear a Phillies jersey and assist volunteers in a project to paint a mural on the side of an inner-city recreational city in Philadephia. If the Yankees win, Nutter will wear a Yankees jersey take part in painting a inner-city public school in New York.
Now, the projects will get done regardless of who wins. It’s a matter of which mayor assists which group of volunteers.
Oh, yeah. There will be food. The mayor of the losing team will provide lunch for all the volunteers for the particular day of service.
Bloomberg says the idea originated from President Obama’s "call to service" for all Americans.
Nutter said he has already been involved with two wagers involving his counterparts in Denver and Los Angeles that resulted in work on with a homeless shelter and on a Habitat for Humanity house.
It’s part of Major League Baseball’s postseason theme of community service. Commissioner Bud Selig can be criticized for a lot of things, but not for this.
Each of the first four World Series game will feature some segment of a community service theme.
Wednesday, first lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, participated in a pregame ceremony honoring veterans. The ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by Tony Odiemo, a serviceman who lost an arm during the war in Iraq, earned both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart and now works in stadium operations for the Yankees. Before the game, the two women joined Mets owner Fred Wilpon and Yankee general manager Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal in visiting the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx. It’s all part of the Welcome Back Veterans initiative that, in addition to physical needs, addresses mental health and job-related problems for veterans.
Thursday, the theme shifted to volunteerism and various forms of community service, including the presentation of the Roberto Clemente Award.
The theme for Game 3 will be "Stand Up to Cancer," featuring survivors and those heroes who have done research and provided aid to sufferings of the various types of that disease.
The Game 4 theme will focus on reviving the inner cities, specifically through the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
We’re seeing games and a major sporting event being used as a vehicle to inspire and affect what is happening on real life issues.
By turning some of the focus outside the stadium walls, baseball is hitting it out of the park.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)