SAN FRANCISCO -- This story begins, happily, with former UCLA and NBA star Steve Patterson, has spread throughout sports and continues unabated. It's a story of philanthropy, of giving back and becoming a part of something bigger than the self. The Giants Community Fund, the Junior Giants program in particular, received the Steve Patterson Award for Excellence in Sports Philanthropy on Sunday in an on-field presentation.
The honor, bestowed by the Sports Philanthropy Project and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recognizes charitable professional sports franchises in the country. "It makes us especially proud to be the first team in baseball to receive the honor," Giants Community Fund executive director Sue Petersen said. "The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is well respected and it is forward thinking of them to look at sports as a method to connect with people regarding health and education issues." Since 1991, the Giants Community Fund has used baseball as a forum to encourage young people and their families to live healthy, productive lives. During that time, the Fund has donated more than $9.5 million to community efforts and innovative programs that address education, health, violence prevention and youth development. The Junior Giants program (Sunday was also Junior Giants Day) helped the Community Fund reach children who would not otherwise have access to organized recreational activities. Junior Giants is a free baseball program that emphasizes self-esteem over statistics and scholarship over scorecards. Each year, the program reaches 15,000 girls and boys ages 5-18 (about 4,200 were in attendance Sunday) living in inner cities and rural suburbs in Central and Northern California, Oregon and Nevada. "We admire what Sue and her cohorts have done with baseball," SPP executive director Greg Johnson said. "They have been instrumental in developing the youth baseball program that will continue to benefit communities into the future." It's the fourth year of the Steve Patterson Award. Previous winners include the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars and the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. Patterson, who devoted much of his time to coaching kids basketball among other charitable work, died unexpectedly in 2004. He had been working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on youth sports when he passed away. The Foundation committed to carrying on his work as a way to honor him. "Our mission in life was giving back," said Carlette Patterson, Steve's widow and director of Patterson Sports Ventures. "He wanted to play a small role in something bigger than himself and close the gap between sports and social issues." Petersen, who joined the Giants in 1993, participated in the application process and flew to Minneapolis, with Giants COO Larry Baer, for the national presentation at the AP Sports Editors Convention on June 28. "They formed a network of sports foundations that stay in touch with each other," Petersen said. "We share ideas regarding legal issues, technology. It's a great resource."
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.