An event to raise awareness about human trafficking will be held Sept. 15 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where singer Nick Jonas will perform after an Angels game against the Seattle Mariners.
The second annual Strike Out Slavery Day will include a free pregame festival where people with tickets to the game can interact with nonprofits combating human trafficking and take part in various family activities. The postgame concert also is free for ticket holders.
Strike Out Slavery was founded in 2017 by Deidre Pujols and her husband, Angels star Albert Pujols, to draw attention to what they call modern-day slavery. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has labeled human trafficking the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry.
The inaugural event last year was held solely at Angel Stadium, but another Strike Out Slavery program this year is slated for the Washington Nationals’ ballpark in the nation’s capital on Aug. 23.
“I chose Washington because that’s where the laws are made,” Deidre Pujols said.
During a news conference last week, Deidre Pujols said she’s hoping each team in Major League Baseball eventually will have a Strike Out Slavery Day. She said MLB has been accommodating and has been taking “small steps,” including providing a spot for the group in July at the All-Star FanFest in Washington.
But getting league officials to dedicate stadium space to such a heavy topic may not be easy. Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff of the Orange County district attorney’s office, said at the news conference that the topic is still new enough that some may be afraid to discuss it.
“I think when the MLB sees it is safe for us to talk about this without scaring fans or brands and when they see our success, they will be more open to it,” Schroeder said.
Deidre Pujols found her calling in combating human trafficking while traveling to different countries in 2016 and witnessing the effects of the rising criminal enterprise. After returning home, she started Open Gate International to provide vocational training to trafficking victims after they have been rescued and rehabilitated.
The effort is characteristic of Deidre Pujols, who started the Pujols Family Foundation with her husband to provide awareness and support for families who live with Down syndrome, improve the quality of life of impoverished people in the Dominican Republic and support children with disabilities or life-threatening illnesses. The Pujols’ daughter, Isabella, has Down syndrome.
Stacy Jewell Lewis, who was abducted at age 19 off the streets of Washington, D.C., and sold into the sex trade, also feels compelled to spread awareness about human trafficking. She is now an advocate and the survivor ambassador for Strike Out Slavery.
“I had no idea anyone cared about me,” Lewis said. “I had no idea anyone was looking for me or that anyone knew what I was going through. That was because 17 years ago, nobody did know what I was going through. They weren’t talking about human trafficking.”