Albert Pujols and his wife, Deidre, launched a campaign against human trafficking two years ago. The couple picked up the cost of two concerts at Angel Stadium and a third at Nationals Park in Washington, using the events to foster awareness about what is often called modern-day slavery.
Major League Baseball and its players’ association joined the fight Tuesday. MLB and the MLBPA announced a $500,000 donation to charities focused on combating human trafficking.
Strike Out Slavery, the organization founded by Albert and Deidre Pujols, will be one of the recipients. The Angels first baseman and his wife will serve on a council to help select the other recipients.
“We thought very highly of the work they were doing,” said Melanie LeGrande, MLB vice president of social responsibility, “and we thought this was a topic we could have more of an impact on.”
Albert Pujols, a three-time National League most valuable player, is not the only major leaguer engaged on this issue. Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace and three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, last week visited the Dominican Republic with his wife, Ellen, and International Justice Mission, a Washington-based organization working to combat human trafficking.
According to International Justice Mission, there are more than 40 million worldwide victims of human trafficking, including forced labor and sex trafficking, with one of every four victims of forced labor a child. That organization works with local and national governments to rescue victims and punish abusers under law.
When she first learned about the issue, in 2016, Deidre Pujols said she helped trafficking survivors learn culinary skills so they could join the work force.
“You have to see the value of affecting even one life,” she said. “I’ll never get tired of doing that.”
Strike Out Slavery is now in its third year, the number of ballpark concerts will grow to four this season (Angel Stadium, Nationals Park, Citi Field in New York and Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City), and the grant from the MLB and MLBPA should help spread the message. Deidre Pujols said she would eventually like to see a concert in each of the 30 major league ballparks, and a player from every team serving as an ambassador for Strike Out Slavery.
In recognition of their work, Albert and Deidre Pujols are set to be honored by the United Nations Women for Peace Assn. March 1 in New York.
“Strike Out Slavery is not about Albert and Deidre at all,” she said. “We just pioneered it. We really want it to be about the alliance we created.”
Said Tony Clark, executive director of the MLBPA: “Lives and families around the world are being destroyed by human trafficking. By putting the power of players’ voices and the resources of the Major League Baseball community together to grow awareness and raise public consciousness around this important cause, I’m confident we can make a meaningful difference.”