MLB pitching in for devastated Haiti

By Mark Newman / MLB.com

01/14/10 1:39 PM EST

Major League Baseball, its clubs, its players and its fans are participating in rapid relief efforts for the devastated nation of Haiti, which remains in a state of chaos amid widespread fatalities and destruction following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake.

Commissioner Bud Selig announced on Thursday that MLB has pledged an immediate donation of $1 million to support the cause. The donations are being coordinated through UNICEF, which is aiding victims by providing necessary supplies to assist with recovery efforts, including clean water and sanitation, medical supplies and temporary shelter.

The contribution, an extension of MLB’s “Going Beyond” efforts, is being made on behalf of Major League Baseball, its 30 clubs, MLB Network and MLB.com. MLB is encouraging concerned citizens to visit the UNICEF Web site and make a donation as well.

“Major League Baseball believes it is crucial to help the Haitian community in this time of need,” Selig said. “It is difficult for us to imagine the catastrophic toll this earthquake has taken on the people of Haiti, a land not far from the United States. We hope this contribution will help aid in the relief efforts and we encourage our fans to make a donation as well. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all who have been affected by this unimaginable natural disaster.”

“This generous donation from Major League Baseball will help save the lives of Haitian children,” said Ann M. Veneman, executive director of UNICEF. “The people of Haiti urgently need food, fresh water, shelter and medical supplies, and the first days are crucial.”

“This contribution could not come at a more critical moment for the children of Haiti. MLB’s generosity will enable UNICEF to immediately purchase the supplies we need to prevent a second wave of death and suffering, caused by disease and lack of sanitation,” said Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “We were powerless to prevent Tuesday’s occurrence. However, we do have the power to help our neighbors in Haiti shape their future. We are extremely grateful to MLB for believing in the future of Haiti’s children.”

The Caribbean nation — which shares an island with the baseball pipeline that is the Dominican Republic — is struggling to find survivors and tend to its injured and displaced masses. The death toll is estimated to be at least in the tens of thousands, and officials fear it could reach six figures.

“This is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share,” President Barack Obama said. “With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us, and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home. So we have to be there for them in their hour of need.

“I want to thank the many Americans who have already contributed to this effort, and I want to encourage more to help.”

The Yankees announced that they are donating $500,000 in support of rescue and relief efforts.

“The catastrophic event has devastated an entire nation and will have far-reaching effects in the worldwide Haitian community,” the Yankees said in a statement. “The Yankees hope their donation will inspire people throughout the United States to do everything they can to aid the people of Haiti in their time of need.”

Indeed, individual citizens quickly rallied through the immediacy of such social media as Twitter, with viral tweets spreading links to donation forms. That online community includes many athletes, among them veteran Major Leaguer Miguel Tejada. The Dominican native was preparing a container van with emergency supplies that would be sent to Haiti.

“What happened in Haiti is a tragedy, something terrible, a sister country with which we share a common island,” Tejada said to ESPNdeportes.com during a telephone interview from his Fort Lauderdale home.

“I’ve authorized my staff to prepare a shipment to help the needy people in Haiti as soon as possible. The plan is to fill up a container van with items needed in an emergency. In these situations, they would need water, canned food, medicine, powdered milk and kids’ clothes.”

Tejada said that the Haitian Consulate in Miami would be in charge of channeling the aid, and he encouraged others to coordinate any aid efforts through the consulate. The 2002 American League MVP wants all of his MLB colleagues, particularly Dominicans, to step up and help the victims.

“Everyone who can help should,” he said. “I heard that among the victims there are a lot of Dominicans who work in organizations and companies established in Haiti.”

The Reds have asked fans who want to take advantage of free admission to Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on Monday — Martin Luther King Jr. Day — to bring clothing or personal-care items for Haitian children.

The Freedom Center is coordinating the collection of these items with the Reds and logistics partners 1-800-GOT-JUNK? — which will have a truck outside the center where people can drop off donated items — and Matthew 25 Ministries, which is arranging shipment to Haiti. Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

Click here to see how you can help.

Prospects from Haiti
There are no active Major Leaguers from Haiti, nor any above short-season Class A ball as of 2009. But a search of the MLB.com player database turned up 13 signed players listing Haiti as their birth country, and clubs were checking on their status as of Wednesday. Those players are listed below, along with their parent organization and latest level).

Pitcher Francique Charles (Phillies, Dominican Summer League); second baseman Wilner Charles (Dodgers, DSL); outfielder Alexis Elie Lamour (Rays, DSL); center fielder Jacobo Espiede (N/A); pitcher Eduard Estalis (Cardinals, DSL); catcher Gasner Guerrier (N/A); pitcher Samuel Jean (Orioles, DSL); pitcher Michael Joseph (Marlins, DSL); third baseman Ketnold Noel (Marlins, Gulf Coast League); pitcher Dieudone Paul (Astros, DSL); second baseman Nelson Pierre (Tigers, DSL); pitcher Reginal Simon (Phillies, Williamsport Crosscutters); infielder Franklin Toussaint (A’s, DSL).

Simon, a 20-year-old, 6-foot-3 right-hander from Port-au-Prince, is the most advanced of the 13, having pitched in the short-season New York-Penn League last summer. He was converted to reliever and appeared in 18 games. In 2008 he pitched for the Phillies’ Gulf Coast League club and started 11 games, going 4-4 with a 5.07 ERA. In ’07, his pro debut, he was 5-0 with a 1.11 ERA over his last eight outings for the Phillies’ DSL Guanuma team — including a shutout in his finale.

The Tigers said on Thursday that they are “in the process of reaching Nelson just to make sure everything is OK. He was born in Haiti, and grew up and resides in the Dominican.”

MLB works with individual clubs to maintain a disaster plan for employees and academies in the Dominican. That plan was created with the hurricane season in mind, but it would have applied to a tsunami as well. After the earthquake, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Bahamas were under a tsunami warning. An area of main concern was Boca Chica, where the majority of academies are located. The tsunami warning has since been lifted.

‘Too many people who need help’
The reports from Haiti have been horrifying.

The National Palace was destroyed. The buildings of the finance ministry, the ministry of public works, the ministry of communication and culture, the Palace of Justice, the Superior Normal School, the National School of Administration, the Caribbean regional office of the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), Parliament and the Port-au-Prince Cathedral were damaged to varying degrees. Communications have been seriously disrupted, with a Haitian diplomat saying: “Communication is absolutely impossible.”

A hospital in Petionville, a wealthy suburb of Port-au-Prince, also collapsed. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) — the Christopher Hotel — and offices of the World Bank were destroyed.

Doctors Without Borders said that its three hospitals in Haiti were rendered useless, and it is treating the injured at temporary shelters.

“The reality of what we are seeing is severe traumas, head wounds, crushed limbs — severe problems that cannot be dealt with the level of medical care we currently have available with no infrastructure really to support it,” said Paul McPhun, an operations manager for Doctors Without Borders.

The global relief effort picked up steam on Thursday with a British flight carrying a government assessment team and 71 rescue specialists along with heavy equipment to the island. A 72-member search team from the Los Angeles County Fire Department departed for Haiti late Wednesday. Many more nations are sending help, backed by the funding of the public.

The airport is reported to be open and able to accommodate relief flights.

“We’ll be using whatever roads are passable to get aid to Port-au-Prince, and if possible we’ll bring helicopters in,” said Emilia Casella, a spokeswoman for the U.N. food agency in Geneva.

The earthquake was the strongest to hit Haiti in 200 years, and the U.S. Geological Survey has recorded a series of aftershocks there — more than 40 so far, according to CNN. Many of these have been between magnitudes 5.0 and 5.9 on the Richter scale.

According to the International Red Cross, approximately 3 million people may have been affected, half of them children. Haiti has a population of 9.6 million, of which more than half are under 21, and the population in Port-au-Prince is about two million. In addition, there are 45,000 Americans living in Haiti. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, ranked 149th (out of 182 countries) on the Human Development Index, and its building codes were generally insufficient by modern standards.

The U.S. and other nations have begun organizing aid efforts, alerting search teams and gathering badly needed supplies. “Haiti has moved to center of the world’s thoughts and the world’s compassion,” said British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Haitian Red Cross spokesman Pericles Jean-Baptiste said that his organization is overwhelmed.

“There are too many people who need help,” Jean-Baptiste said. “We lack equipment, we lack body bags.”

“The hospitals cannot handle all these victims,” Dr. Louis-Gerard Gilles, a former senator, said as he helped survivors. “Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together.”

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