Academic journal article Nine

English- and Spanish-Speaking Minor League Baseball Players' Perspectives on Community Service and the Psychosocial Benefit of Helping Children

Academic journal article Nine

English- and Spanish-Speaking Minor League Baseball Players' Perspectives on Community Service and the Psychosocial Benefit of Helping Children

Article excerpt

Community service is a common activity for many athletes and teams. Often it involves raising money for a cause, or promoting healthy, safe, or prosocial behavior; other times, it simply brings athletes together with members of the community. Many of the latter types of events bring community members to the stadium or send athletes to schools, camps, malls, or hospitals. These events can offer public relations benefits to teams, but what do these activities mean to individual athletes who participate in them?

In the many studies of athletes' involvement in community service, cause promotion, and even sponsored events, athletes' own perspectives have only infrequently been addressed. Researchers have examined effects on fans, organizations, communities, and even society. (1) When special issues of the Journal of Sport Management and the Journal of Organization & Management recently focused on sport and social responsibility, researchers looked at these same stakeholders, but did not examine the effects on or perspectives of the athletes involved. (2)

Relatively few studies have explored athletes' perspectives on community service. (3) A potentially related study of a baseball team in the New York-Penn League (NYPL), for example, examined effects on the organization, not the players. (4) The current study attempts to fill a gap in the literature by examining athletes' perspectives on participating in community service.

During the 2009 and 2010 seasons, the authors interviewed eighty baseball players from ten of the fourteen affiliated teams playing in the NYPL (Class A--Short Season). All of the players interviewed indicated that they are required or strongly encouraged to perform community service. Correspondence with general managers of eleven of the fourteen NYPL teams confirmed that some parent organizations require a minimum number of hours or events per player, while others do not require a set amount but do reward participation, either through an appearance fee or with end-of-season awards. Even when community service is voluntary, general managers estimated that 75 to 100 percent of their players participate in community service, with the exception of one general manager, who estimated that half of his players participate. One general manager estimated that half of his team's community service involves children, but overall general managers estimated that "more than half" or "the majority" of community service involves local children; numerical estimates ranged from 6o to 95 percent. Clearly participation in community service is the norm among NYPL players, making community service potentially an important element of off-field socialization and a bridge between players and the community.

The NYPL was chosen for this study for several reasons. First, from a methodological perspective, players at this organizational level tend to be more accessible and open. (5) One executive explained that more experienced players tend to be much more guarded.

Second, from a social and developmental perspective, community service affords opportunities for direct interaction with fans. Players interviewed in the present study emphasized that, for most of them, the NYPL is their first time playing as professionals in front of fans. At this level, players often depend on fans for housing, rides, and other forms of social and material support. Players also indicated that good relations with fans can favorably impress the organization. Thus, serving these important stakeholders has both professional and social implications for NYPL players.

Third, from a managerial perspective, community service might affect players more at this level than at other levels. Some players believed that community service has more meaning and impact early in their professional careers. They said that major-league players, for example, may have more opportunities overall and more resources for helping others, but the NYPL offers more access to and interaction with fans, and more opportunities for players to give--and to see the results of their giving--directly. …

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