Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Preparatory School and Edgewood Country Club in Commerce Township recently played host to a number of baseball greats in order to raise funds and awareness for children’s safety.
The inaugural The Greatest Save Celebrity Experience event took place on Sunday, Aug. 12 and Monday, Aug. 13, and included a youth baseball clinic, a banquet and golf outing with former Detroit Tigers players along with an appearance by Baseball Hall of Famer and The Greatest Save National Spokesman Rollie Fingers.
The Greatest Save is a non-profit crime prevention program that is supported nationwide by law enforcement officials and is also a recognized charity of Major League Baseball (MLB) with the goal of protecting children and teens from sexual exploitation, abduction, molestation and human trafficking.
The organization educates through age-appropriate safety DVDs, on-site events, online interactive activities and quizzes, classroom materials, and online safety messages.
“The Greatest Save is designed to be an umbrella for law enforcement, families, schools and businesses to come together for the protection of kids,” said Doug Sebastian, founder of The KinderVision Foundation and a former Michigan State University student.
The Greatest Save is a division of KinderVision, an organization that was launched in southern California in 1991 after the kidnapping and murder of 7-year-old San Diego resident Leticia Hernandez.
Thanks in part to the outreach of former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim owner Gene Autry, KinderVision eventually started working with Major League Baseball and the organization eventually grew to include offices across the country.
Commerce Township resident Patrick Murray is a member of The Greatest Save Founder’s Council and an Edgewood Country Club member who worked along with his wife, Joan, to help organize the events in Commerce after meeting Sebastian and his wife at a similar event in Florida.
On Aug. 12, a free youth baseball clinic was held at the Orchard Lake St. Mary’s baseball complex, where children had a chance to improve their baseball skills with the help of former MLB players by working their way through nine stations.
“(Former Tiger) Ray Herbert was there giving pitching lessons, and Tom Timmerman from the 1969 Tigers was also there,” Murray said. “We had 203 youth players participate and an equal number, if not more, spectators. So we had about 500 people at the clinic.”
Also in attendance was former Tigers player and University of Michigan baseball coach Don Lund.
One of the stations was set in the dugout and was known as “The Greatest Save” station, where each child was interviewed on camera. The interview was then put on a DVD that also included age-appropriate safety information.
Adults on hand were also invited to participate in a safety survey in order to receive better insight.
Later that evening, a banquet and auction were held at Edgewood, where a number of signed MLB memorabilia items were available for auction, including jerseys signed by Al Kaline and Bob Gibson and signed pictures of Hal Newhouser and Charlie Gehringer.
One of the items auctioned off was The Greatest Save baseball that was autographed by Baseball Hall of Famers Fingers, Goose Gossage, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter, along with closers Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.
There was also a special 45-minute question and answer segment with Fingers and Darrell Evans, a former Tiger who hit 414 home runs in his MLB career.
“Those guys could have talked for hours because the (attendees) were completely enthralled,” Murray said.
He added that Fingers skipped a 30th anniversary reunion of his 1982 American League champion Milwaukee Brewers team that weekend in order to participate in the festivities in Commerce.
On Aug. 13, the Pro-Am Golf Tournament took place at Edgewood with five-person teams. Each team had a former MLB player, including Fingers, and an awards luncheon was held afterwards.
The funds raised at the event will go toward The Greatest Save’s initiatives for children in southeast Michigan, including classroom materials and interactive events.
Both Sebastian and Murray declared the event as a success and dates have already been scheduled for next year’s celebrity experience — July 21 and 22.
“We’ve extended invites to Al Kaline and Jim Bunning to join Rollie in the Hall of Fame Q&A,” Murray said.
For more information on The Greatest Save, child safety and future celebrity experiences, visit thegreatestsave.org.