The Baseball Assistance Team, a charitable arm of Major League Baseball that is dedicated to helping players, coaches and front office personnel in need, announced in an e-mail from director Erik Nielsen on Tuesday that they will cease their annual "Going to B.A.T." dinner fundraiser after 25 years of service. The dinner was held annually at the New York Marriott Marquis and was the marquee off-season event, attracting over 100 former players each year including numerous members of the Hall of Fame.
The event was a baseball enthusiast's dream, as the cocktail hour and dinner provided attendees the opportunity to mix and mingle with a myriad of the sport's greats, talking baseball, taking photos and signing autographs. As rewarding as the opportunity to interact with the baseball legends, it was equally exciting to find out how B.A.T. stepped in to help out the members of the baseball family.
Barry Lyons, a catcher on the 1986 New York Mets World Series championship team, was a regular attendee at the annual dinner. He received immediate assistance from B.A.T. after his house was destroyed following Hurricane Katrina. In a 2011 interview, Lyons discussed how relieved he was that B.A.T. was able to step in and put his life back on track.
“It was awesome," he said. "I was really devastated and my family was devastated. It was tough on all of us down there that suffered the losses that we [experienced]. It’s very heartwarming and comforting to know that B.A.T. was there for me and in my corner [to] help support me through the toughest part of that time which was the first few months after [it happened].”
Nielsen did leave the possibility of the dinner returning to New York in 2016. The full statement is below.
For the past 25 years, the annual “Going to Bat for B.A.T.” Fundraising Dinner has been held each January at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, with tremendous support from companies and individuals like you. We are most grateful for your support of the members of the Baseball Family. The annual event has played a significant role in allowing B.A.T. to help some 3,200 applicants through donations of more than $30 million since 1986.
Following this year’s Dinner, the leadership of B.A.T. determined to explore new ways to promote the visibility of the organization. B.A.T. also examined the rising costs and the significant time commitment necessary to execute the B.A.T. Dinner, and after that evaluation, decided to aim its resources directly at its core constituency: members of the Baseball Family who are in dire need of assistance. Accordingly, as we look to better focus upon our immediate and long-term goals, we will not hold a B.A.T. Dinner event this coming January. We will absolutely keep in touch should the New York B.A.T. Dinner return in 2016.
Thank you again for your ongoing support of the Baseball Assistance Team, as well as your compassion for the Baseball Family members who have nowhere else to turn. We truly appreciate your efforts.