One of the good things about being an environmentalist is that the whole caring for the planet thing can happen anywhere, well, on the planet.
So when outfielder Chris Dickerson was traded from the Brewers to the Yankees in return for Sergio Mitre near the end of Spring Training, Dickerson knew that the one thing he wouldn't have to worry about was the continuation of his Players for the Planet organization.
This was particularly vital as the three-year-old organization, formed by Dickerson and former pitcher Jack Cassel, began work on a relatively new initiative for them. Started initially to raise awareness about recycling, particularly the consumption of plastic in the form of water bottles in dugouts and clubhouses, Players for the Planet has branched out to the world of e-waste.
"I'm really excited this year," Dickerson said prior to a game with his newest team, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in the Triple-A International League. "It's definitely a transition, we kind of stumbled upon it. We had this idea that there was a big need for recycling for old appliances and things like that. We did a trial run last year and had an unbelievable response. By midday we had filled up two 18-wheelers of TVs, hard drives and keyboards. We collected 275,000 pounds of e-waste despite it raining on that Sunday."
It was such a success -- the largest e-waste event ever held by partner Global Environmental Services -- that the Reds called wanting to know when they could do it again this season. And that was with Dickerson no longer being with the organization. The outfielder was traded to Milwaukee last August for Jim Edmonds.
That was of no big concern to Dickerson. Things were fairly well established on the ground in Cincinnati, so Dickerson didn't necessarily have to live there to make sure a second e-waste campaign ran smoothly. One of the keys has been player buy-in. Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs were there last year, and knowing that big leaguers would be present certainly helped the turnout. This year, Stubbs and Bruce have re-upped to help out, with Mike Leake and Ryan Hanigan lending their support as well.
"It's a community thing," Dickerson said. "It really allows players to get involved with the community, rewarding people who participate in the event by getting to meet the players. The players helped them unload the cars. It was really fun to watch last year."
"We're getting corporate sponsors on board," said Cassel, who spent 10 years pitching professionally, with parts of two seasons in the big leagues on his resume, and is now a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in San Francisco. "It's starting to pick up some momentum, which is very exciting for us.
"The Reds are promoting it within their stadium. We're working in unison with the clubs. promoting our cause of awareness."
Dickerson's trade to Milwaukee, then, seemed to be a blessing in this regard. It was an easy choice of a place to expand the e-waste effort, and being that the Brewers and Reds were in the same division, the collection in Cincinnati was going to be scheduled when the Brewers were in town. But then came the trade, and now Dickerson will have to watch the drives in those two NL Central cities from afar.
"The only thing that throws a wrench in is that I won't be there," said Dickerson, who along with Cassel gave Steve Skelly much of the credit for organizing everything on the ground. "But we got enough work done in Spring Training, we both agreed what needed to be done. With guys hopefully making an appearance there, the event will continue to be successful.
"[The trade] did throw me for a loop because I won't be present. I was supposed to be present in Cincinnati as well. The players' involvement will help. It shows great character on their part."
Players for the Planet hopes to expand these collections to other markets. There are plans in the works for Kansas City (Cassel said Mike Aviles and Chris Getz are their "players on board" for the event), and Dickerson added that there's interest in San Diego as well.
"I'd like to see it continue to grow," Cassel said. "We have other things on the agenda, but this one has kind of come to the forefront because it's been generating revenue, which allows us to continue with the education side of it.
"I could see us doing 30 of them. We're doing it with baseball because that's our world, but it could be with any town with any sports team. It's just hooking up with the local team."
"I think if you go to more progressive cities like Seattle, even a Washington D.C., there's even greater awareness of the environmental aspect," Dickerson added. "I can see it going into other markets. In Washington, it would be a great addition to their green program.
"Hopefully the success will be something that can't be ignored by the other 26 teams in baseball and we can reach out to many more next year."
While it is branching out in a new direction, it does fit perfectly into Players for the Planet's mission: raising awareness of the world's consumption, reducing waste and getting professional athletes involved in the effort. Regardless of where one might stand on the issue of climate change and global warming, Dickerson feels that everyone can feel comfortable with making a difference in efforts like this.
"It's been three years now [since the organization was created], and I think it has become more of a significant issue in the public eye," Dickerson said. "When I first got over here to Scranton...a perfect example here is my teammate, Greg Golson. He just recently got into the environment. It's an example of how athletes and people are still discovering that there's a lot of stuff that needs to be done. There are a lot of environmental issues that need to be dealt with. I think there will continue to be a greater interest, and from athletes, who will have the greater pedestal.
"Over the past five or six years, we've had a great debate about global warming, but you can't ignore the fact that there's a need for a cut in consumption in this country and around the world, in how we use our plastic and how we recycle."