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Players build frames for Habitat for Humanity homes, raise funds for disaster victims

The Players Trust relief efforts in Dallas this week were a reminder from Major League Baseball players that they haven’t forgotten victims of the natural disasters that befell southern Texas, Florida, Northern California, Mexico and Puerto Rico earlier this year.

More than 49 active and former players on Wednesday gathered first at a Habitat for Humanity warehouse to help construct frames for two houses then hurried back to their hotel to change their clothes for an evening fund-raising event.

Astros superstar and AL MVP José Altuve, Marlins All-Star Christian Yelich and Hall of Famer and local hero Pudge Rodriguez co-hosted the pair of events for the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the collective charity players have themselves funded and administered for the past 21 years.

“It’s been a tough year for a lot of people all over the country,” Yelich said. “It’s just nice to let them know we appreciate them and haven’t forgotten about them. We’re going to do anything we can to help out.”

The charity events were rolled into four days of activities players were attending in Dallas as part of the Major League Baseball Players Association’s annual executive board and Players Trust meetings.

“With the challenges in Houston, in Florida, in Mexico, in Puerto Rico and in California, our guys come together very quickly to affect change,” MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark said. “That’s what made this opportunity to go back and do more was a special and very personal one for many of us.”

Seldom does a Habitat for Humanity build draw the services of dozens of world-class athletes, so the players were put right to work framing out the houses at a good pace. Aside from perhaps a few banged thumbs, there were no major injuries reported.

“The amazing thing about this room is that you have everyone from Hall-of-Fame players to guys in their first year in the big leagues helping out in the same capacity, building houses and putting in the effort,” said Blue Jays pitcher Tom Koehler, describing the scene.

The players and MLBPA staff were also joined by a group of student volunteers from nearby Sam Houston High School who take part in the Trust’s Action Team national youth volunteer program..

In addition to the frames that will be trucked to Houston locations and used in the construction of two homes for needy families in 2018, the Players Trust also presented a check to Habitat for Humanity for $85,000 to further help its Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in Texas

The players, volunteers and their families also assembled holiday gift packages for another 177 families who lost their homes to flooding.

“It’s been a very trying time in Houston and the surrounding areas,“ said Soleil Watt, executive director of Habitat for Humanity’s Northwest Harris County affiliate. “So many people have been displaced and so many people fear they will be forgotten. That a couple of months later so many players are out here building a house is something that we can go back and share. It will help bring a morale boost that is much needed.”

Watt thought it was fitting that baseball players were coming back to bring attention to the plight of Houston-area hurricane and flooding victims following the Astros’ thrilling postseason, which culminated in the franchise’s first World Series championship.

“One of the things that kept us going in the Houston area following Hurricane Harvey was our Astros, baseball, watching the games during the playoffs and the World Series,” she said. “Now all of these players are here collectively, building walls and putting together packets for the hurricane victims.”

Altuve, the diminutive superstar second baseman who was selected by his peers as the Player of the Year in Players Choice Awards for leading the Astros in their championship season, said his performance during the final weeks of the season and during the postseason was motivated by his desire to bring a much-needed respite people in the Houston area.

“They are the biggest reason why we went out every single day,” Altuve said.

Later that evening, the Players Trust hosted a fundraising dinner and auction at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, presented by Topps and Infield Chatter to benefit victims of the series of natural disasters that have devastated areas across the Americas.

“One of the great things about the Trust is that as players we get to steer our charitable involvement where we want,” Koehler said. “In this case, we made the decision that we wanted to come together to help the victims of the different disasters that took place this year – the hurricanes, the flooding, the wild fires.”

Bruce Maxwell, a 26-year-old catcher for the Oakland A’s who just completed his rookie season, said he felt inspired by the players’ unity.

“It shows the brotherhood we’ve created through the union that former players and active players came here from all over to help less fortunate people in a common cause,” he said. “A really diverse group – guys from different eras, different parts of the country, other countries – joined together to help people get through their hard times.”

You can help support the players’ efforts by making a donation here.