Giants impact community in big ways
Mays, Lincecum among team's prominent figures to give back
Two of the Giants' biggest names, one past and one present, occupied prominent spots in the Giants' charitable endeavors for 2008.Thanksgiving is always a fitting time to recall such good deeds, and this year the Giants can be especially thankful for the legendary Willie Mays and the electrifying Tim Lincecum. A reminder of Mays' enduring influence on youths came when the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunters Point was completed in June -- nearly one year after a dedication and groundbreaking was conducted on July 10, 2007, for the clubhouse, a project that sprung from the legacy program of that night's All-Star Game played at AT&T Park.
The Giants, Major League Baseball, Mays' Say Hey foundation and individual fans provided economic backing for the clubhouse's creation. The process peaked in late September with the unveiling of the Willie Mays Tribute Wall, located inside AT&T Park's Willie Mays Gate. Donors purchased personalized balls, bats and Gold Gloves encased inside the wall to benefit the clubhouse as well as pay tribute to Mays, the Hall of Fame center fielder.Lincecum became the Giants' first National League Cy Young Award winner in 41 years partly because of his Major League-leading 265 strikeouts, including 131 at home. Lincecum's total went a long way toward helping Giants pitchers amass 624 strikeouts at AT&T, prompting the Genentech Foundation to donate $200 per K to the Wellness Community, a Bay Area-based cancer support organization, as part of the season-long Strike Out Cancer program. The $124,800 raised this year hiked the total contribution since the program's inception in 2004 to more than a half-million dollars. Other prominent Giants extended themselves toward the community. Left-hander Barry Zito and shortstop Omar Vizquel assisted with funding for baseball field renovations to provide more places to play baseball for members of the Junior Giants, the signature program of the Giants Community Fund. Zito roamed to Stockton, Calif., to dedicate his field, while Vizquel's was in San Francisco's Excelsior District. They helped 15,000 youths in 80 communities throughout California, Oregon and Nevada enjoy Junior Giants baseball. The Giants made their presence felt in other ways. They were involved in numerous other programs, including the Junior Giants Glove Drive, in which 750 gloves and $35,000 were collected; the annual food drive, which resulted in the collection of 3,306 pounds of food and Organ Donor Awareness Night, which led 59 people to become organ donors. The franchise received recognition for its efforts in August as the Giants Community Fund, and the Junior Giants program in particular, received the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy. The honor, bestowed by the Sports Philanthropy Project and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognizes charitable professional sports franchises in the country. "It makes us especially proud to be the first team in baseball to receive the honor," Giants Community Fund executive director Sue Petersen said. "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is well respected and it is forward-thinking of them to look at sports as a method to connect with people regarding health and education issues." The year isn't over for the community-minded Giants. They'll participate in the San Jose Holiday Parade on Dec. 7. Then they'll hold their annual holiday party at AT&T Park on Dec. 16, featuring games, activities and pizza for 100 children from various homeless shelters. Nearly 30 players joined Zito's group that pledges a certain amount based on its on-field achievements, pushing the total of Major Leaguers committed to the pitcher's cause past 70. The fund has raised more than $1 million.
Contributions to the Strikeouts For Troops fund has helped wounded soldiers remain close to loved ones, provided individual grants to help with immediate needs, paid for flights and lodging, purchased adaptive equipment to assist soldiers at home, helped to fund the Gold Star Family Support Center at Fort Hood, provided backpacks filled with toiletries and other necessities to those who arrive at the hospital with often just the clothes on their back, supported morale-building events nationwide, purchased holiday gifts for military children, provided Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, supplied telephone and gift cards, and has even paid for babysitting so families can stay close.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.