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All those T-shirts of losing teams? Off to Africa.

Major League Baseball is teaming up with World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian aid group, to save mislabeled clothing from the postseason for Ghanaians affected by recent flooding.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / October 24, 2007



When the Boston Red Sox square off against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday night, Jeff Fields is hoping for a nail-biting seven-game World Series. It's not the adrenaline rush that he's after; it's the mislabeled T-shirts.

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If the series goes down to the wire, licensed clothing manufactures will prepare T-shirts, hats, and other apparel announcing both the Sox and the Rockies as the 2007 champs. In years past, once the victors were decided, Major League Baseball (MLB) required the destruction of all the clothing declaring the losers as champions.

But this year Mr. Fields and his colleagues at World Vision, an international Christian humanitarian aid group, will save the erroneously labeled clothing from the incinerators and, instead, send them to impoverished Ghanaians affected by recent flooding.

It's an answer to a dilemma of a little-known corner of professional sports: what to do with all the unsalable paraphernalia of near-champs.

Since the mid-1990s, World Vision has worked with MLB to distribute counterfeit or mislabeled clothing to those in need rather than sending it to the big closet in the sky. It does the same with the National Football League (NFL). This year marks the first time that the MLB will contribute their postseason apparel to the group, not just fraudulently manufactured goods. Sporting-goods stores are also getting into the charity act.

"It's great to have the partnership, great to not see these types of things being destroyed and being utilized for good rather than having to end up in a landfill or an incinerator," says Fields, corporate relations officer for World Vision.

In the world of baseball, receiving championship apparel is seen as something of a ritual and thus worth the pre-production risks.

"The moment of a clinch, the teams celebrate. They pile on top of one another, they get all crazy, and part of that celebration is, in fact, them proclaiming their championship clinch with a T-shirt and a cap," explains Steve Armus, MLB's vice president of consumer products. "It's something that's traditional in baseball and some other sports, and for all the teams it's an important moment."

But to be prepared for each team's potential victory ceremony, the MLB prepares hats and T-shirts – 288 of each item for each team – before each playoff series has been decided. This year, when at least 12 teams were in hard-fought competition for eight playoff spots, league organizers printed apparel for every possible scenario. The result: Thousands of articles of clothing announcing the Padres', Mets', and other vanquished teams' seasonal victories are en route to Ghana. And "the clicker continues to click," adds Mr. Armus.

While the MLB is just beginning to expand its relationship with World Vision, the NFL has been working with the group to send its postseason gear to Africa for years.

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