Yankees' Gleyber Torres and Cubs' Willson Contreras become first MLB players named as Special Olympics global ambassadors

Competitors on the field come together to support global movement of inclusion
Art or Photo Credit: AP

WASHINGTON, DC -- Special Olympics announced Major League Baseball All-Stars Gleyber Torres and Willson Contreras join the ranks as Special Olympics global ambassadors. They mark the first MLB players to become Global Ambassadors of the movement. Both young baseball stars hail from Venezuela and are bilingual, positioning them to build bridges of inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities that span the Americas.

“Special Olympics is proud to have Gleyber Torres and Willson Contreras join our movement as Global Ambassadors. Their passion and perspective amplify the voice of the Unified Generation and show the world how the power of sport can create an inclusive world.” -Mary Davis, Special Olympics Chief Executive Officer

“Gleyber and Willson’s dedication to their sport translates to their endeavors both on and off the field,” said Special Olympics North America President Tony Wyllie. “We look forward to partnering with them to promote the inclusion movement in North America, Latin America and around the world.”

“Gleyber Torres and Willson Contreras deepen the bench of Special Olympics global ambassadors who can truly transcend borders,” said Special Olympics Latin America President Claudia Echeverry. “Their recognition and reputations throughout the Americas are unmatched and having these powerhouses of baseball on our team will connect our global movement across languages, across continents and across real and perceived barriers.”

As Special Olympics global ambassadors, Torres and Contreras will leverage their networks to support and promote the organization’s mission worldwide, specifically in the Americas and their home country of Venezuela. In the US, Torres will partner with Special Olympics New York, especially through opportunities involving baseball. In parallel, Contreras will continue his involvement with Special Olympics Illinois, with an emphasis on growing his existing relationships with Special Olympics athletes. In addition to their teams’ home cities of New York and Chicago, both will be involved with opportunities with Special Olympics Florida, their offseason homes.

Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres, two-time MLB All-Star Yankees shortstop, has been quick to get involved in the team’s philanthropic endeavors and is an advocate for health, wellness and fitness. While this marks Torres’s introduction to Special Olympics, he is no stranger to giving back. Earlier this year, Torres was a recipient of the Thurman Munson Award, an honor annually presented to players who inspire others with their performance on and off the field. Torres was honored for donating his time to helping Spanish-speaking students in New York Public Schools learn English and visiting with numerous children receiving cancer treatments.

“I couldn’t imagine a greater honor than being welcomed into the Special Olympics family as a global ambassador. I am excited to hit the ground running and lend my platform to Special Olympics athletes to spread inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in New York, Florida, Latin America and beyond.” -Gleyber Torres

Since making his MLB debut in April 2018, Torres has made the All-Star team twice, the third Yankee in history to do so before turning 23.

Willson Contreras

Willson Contreras, two-time MLB All-Star Cubs catcher, is passionate about supporting people with intellectual disabilities and is driven by his cousin with Down syndrome in Venezuela. Contreras is already a fixture with Special Olympics Illinois, recently serving as the celebrity ambassador for the Windy City Rubber Ducky Derby, an annual race that typically draws thousands of spectators to watch yellow rubber ducks race down the Chicago River, which was held virtually in August of 2020.

“Family is one of the most important things to me. I saw first-hand the struggles my younger cousin with Down syndrome faced every single day. Engaging with Special Olympics athletes and supporting the inclusion movement has been a highlight during my time in Chicago. I’m excited to continue my work with Special Olympics Illinois while increasing my involvement nationally and internationally.” - Willson Contreras

As part of the 2016 World Series-winning team with the Chicago Cubs, Contreras is one of the few big leaguers to hit a home run during his first MLB at-bat. Like Torres, he is also a two-time All-Star in his young career.

Gleyber Torres and Willson Contreras join a variety of other high profile Special Olympics global ambassadors, including the NFL’s Joe Haden and Jamaal Charles, the NBA’s Andre Drummond, Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio, the WNBA’s Elena Delle Donne, as well as legends including Dikembe Mutombo, Didier Drogba and Yao Ming.