| The Detroit News
“To create an inclusive culture within baseball and the community, where differences are leveraged to elevate racial equality and provide greater opportunity for the black community, both in our game and the places we live in and care about the most.”
— Mission statement of the Players Alliance
Detroit — Cameron Maybin, back home in Ashville, North Carolina, last May after the coronavirus pandemic shuttered baseball, found himself on his couch with his son watching news coverage of the death of George Floyd and trying to find the words that might help a 13-year-old understand such a senseless tragedy.
“We were watching it live and I had to try to explain to him what we have to deal with in our nation on a daily basis,” said Maybin, the former Tigers outfielder, on a Zoom conference Wednesday. “It was a tough conversation.”
So tough that Maybin reached out to some of his former teammates and friends with whom he’s maintained a group text with over the years. Dee Gordon was in that group. Former Tiger Edwin Jackson was in that group.
That initial conversation was the spark for what would become the Players Alliance, a non-profit group of more than 150 current and former Black players focused on inclusion, opportunity and equality in baseball and communities across the country.
“We realized that guys had spent like $50 million of their own money trying to help their communities over the last five to 10 years,” Maybin said. “Why not do this collectively? We can use our voice collectively. Together we’re always stronger.
“And here we are just six months into this thing and we’ve started a mentorship group, we’re on this Pull Up Neighbor Tour, we have an Alliance Access program trying to get opportunities in the front-office end of the game. So we’re not just trying to improve the game on the field, but in the front office and off the field.”
The Pull Up Neighbor Tour will make stops in Flint (10 a.m.-noon at The Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, 4119 Saginaw) and Detroit (2:30-4:30 p.m., on the site of old Tiger Stadium) on Friday. Maybin will be on hand at both stops handing out COVID-19 relief items like masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies, as well as baseball equipment.
A pop-up pantry will be on both sites handing out food, as well.
At the Detroit stop, Maybin will be joined by Tigers general manager Al Avila, pitching coach Chris Fetter, Tigers reliever John Schreiber as well as Detroit-born players Werner Blakely, Jr., and Sterling Sharp.
“On Jackie Robinson Day, a lot of players sat out (to protest and create awareness of the racial and social injustice),” Maybin said. “But what we decided was, instead of just sitting out, a lot of guys donated their salary from that day and that’s why we are able to do this tour.”
Over $1 million was raised in salary donations. MLB and the players association donated another $1 million for equipment. MLB subsequently donated another $10 million to the alliance. Presently, according to the Alliance’s website, $41.7 million have been given back to black communities.
“The lack of equipment is the biggest thing you see in these communities,” Maybin said. “It’s so hard to get bats and gloves and spikes. Being able to provide equipment is huge, but doing this during a pandemic, providing COVID essentials is even more important, making sure they have what they need.
“And we know at the end of the day, we’re our best asset. We can have a fund drive and pour dollars into it, but if we’re not actually out there in our communities trying to make changes, it’ll never happen.”
The tour will eventually hit 33 cities in 19 states over two months and while current Tigers players like Christin Stewart and Niko Goodrum are members of the Alliance, it’s no shock that Maybin wanted to be a part of the Detroit stop.
“I’m still a Tiger at heart,” said Maybin, who had his third separate stint with the club last season shortened by a trade deadline move to the Cubs. “I’m indebted to that organization. I have a true soft spot in my heart for the Detroit Tigers — which is why during a pandemic I am flying to Flint and Detroit.
“We want to do everything we can to give back because they’ve given so much to me. They created an opportunity for me to change my family’s life. The people in Detroit, I love them and I want to do everything I can to help.”
Maybin, who is a free agent again this winter, said he’s heard from five or six teams already and he’s awaiting an offer. As for a fourth return to the Tigers?
“Al knows my number,” he said. “I’m always a phone call away.”