The 2013 MLB All-Star Game Tuesday night at Citi Field in New York has a chance to carry an interesting and historical meaning, opening the proverbial door for special opportunities in communities that need them.
Thanks to the efforts by Head & Shoulders and Los Angeles Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson, all it will take are a few swings…and some timely misses.
That’s right, long-ball lovers; tonight the strikeout will be on center stage.
Though most baseball fans are drawn to the MLB All-Star Game because of the chance to see herculean home runs—followed by more herculean home runs—or a respective league’s home-field advantage possibilities during the World Series, tonight’s game will put a great deal of importance elsewhere.
As part of the continuing support for the MLB’s RBI program (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), Head & Shoulders has announced a special challenge: If a pitcher strikes out the side in the second inning of the All-Star Game, they will donate $1 million to the RBI program.
Yep, that’s $1 million.
The announcement is an added bonus to the already successful “Season of the #Whiff Campaign,” where Head & Shoulders donates $1 to the RBI program for every strikeout in the 2013 season.
Keeping up with the power of social media, a fanbase can tweet the specified hashtag (#whiff) plus their team’s Twitter handle every time a pitcher from that club records a strikeout. The team with the most tweets at the end of each month can earn $10,000, encompassing a total community effort for each team.
It’s a community helping another community. Simple enough.
At the head of this, not only for the Los Angeles Angels, but also nationally, is pitcher C.J. Wilson.
I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to chat with the Angels' pitcher, and Head & Shoulders “Mane Man,” about his involvement with the campaign and the potential donation.
Wilson, who was introduced to the RBI program when he was 15 years old while playing youth baseball in the Los Angeles area, is excited about such a hands-on charitable group.
“It’s great,” Wilson told me over the phone, “I get to go out there and do my job—strike people out, help people get some fantasy (league) points—and it’s all for a great cause.”
In addition to his 110 strikeouts this year from the mound, C.J. has contributed via a few rare plate appearances, where he has struck out four times. Instead of beating himself up, though, he looked at the bright side of his misfortune. “When I was hitting last week, I struck out,” he laughed, “And I thought...hey, that’s a dollar for donation.”
It remains to be seen if the hitters in tonight’s game will have the same fresh outlook, but with such a hefty announcement during a media-rich All-Star week (see Yasiel Puig and Freddie Freeman), you can count on more than a casual glance, no question.
It’s something that Wilson, who missed out on being an All Star this year, understands. "I wish it was me out there," he said. "I would like the chance to (strike out the side), but I didn’t get the votes."
That doesn’t mean he won’t be around tonight, however. C.J. will be taking over the Head & Shoulders Twitter handle (@HSforMen) for a portion of the game, spreading the word about the campaign and fielding fan questions.
And who knows, perhaps he may divulge a scouting report or two for the possible hurlers (Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer) in the second inning.
It wouldn’t hurt.
After all, the middle of the lineup for both the AL and NL teams are not what you would call Adam Dunn-esque. As Wilson joked, “(Dunn) could probably use (the program) as a tax write-off.”
Predictions and outcomes aside, the added recognition of RBI can only help the game of baseball and softball moving forward—during a time when they aren't necessarily in line with pop culture.
It really is a win-win. Perhaps that’s the growth John Young had in mind when he started the RBI program in 1989.
So, though it may be odd, don’t be afraid to applaud the backwards-K tonight. Let the roars echo around Citi Field following a swing and a miss...followed by another and another. Salute the failed bunt with two strikes.
Because tonight, much to the delight of C.J., is all about the strikeout, making this game different from the rest.
Note: A very special thanks to C.J. Wilson for taking the time to chat. For more from Rick Suter follow him on Twitter @rick_suter