Tobacco-Free Baseball a Big Hit at MLB FanFest

July 11, 2011

Hundreds of fans, coaches, and families — as well as current players and baseball legends — at the MLB FanFest in Phoenix are joining the campaign to get Major League Baseball players to stop using smokeless tobacco at games and on camera, where their chewing and spitting creates the image that tobacco use is cool and athletic.

They're endorsing the effort to Knock Tobacco Out of the Park to help end what amounts to a celebrity endorsement of a deadly product.

The FanFest is an enormous celebration of all things baseball, sponsored by the MLB in the days leading up to Tuesday's All-Star game. 

Fans at the event are learning about the hazards smokeless tobacco and the spike in smokeless tobacco use by high school boys — it's jumped 36 percent since 2003.

They are signing up by the hundreds to urge the Major League Baseball players' union to agree to Commissioner Bud Selig's call for a prohibition on tobacco use that is similar to the ban currently in place in baseball's minor leagues.

Among those signing on:

  • The original All-American Girls Professional Baseball League players Katie Horstman, Shirley Burkovich and Delores White. The women played on the legendary teams that were portrayed in the 1992 film 'A League of their Own.'

  • Bridget Venturi Veenema and Sarah Gascon, members of USA Baseball's current women's team. The team represents the United States in international competition.

  • Matt Hammond, a 15-year veteran of the minor leagues who has pitched for teams affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Colorado Rockies. Hammond still is addicted to smokeless tobacco that he used as a player, and wants to quit.   

Coaches and former coaches of high school teams also are signing on, concerned about the widespread use of smokeless tobacco by young ballplayers.  Little League families by the dozens have agreed to help.

MLB FanFest and its enthusiastic fans have hit a homerun for healthy kids!

See photos of Knock Tobacco Out of the Park at FanFest.