Harlem RBI collects big prize with NCAA tourney

Wisconsin's victory secures $360,000 for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program

Harlem RBI collects big prize with NCAA tourney

NEW YORK -- Rich Berlin is a 1992 graduate of the University of Wisconsin, but there are 360,000 more reasons that he is ecstatic over the Badgers' 71-64 victory over previously unbeaten Kentucky in Saturday's NCAA basketball semifinal.

He is executive director of Harlem RBI, a longtime member of Major League Baseball's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. No matter what Wisconsin does in Monday's championship game against Duke, Harlem RBI collects a $360,000 bracket prize.

Berlin's friend Gary Cohn, the president and COO of Goldman Sachs, is an ardent supporter of Harlem RBI and was one of 36 industry leaders who each anted up $10,000 to enter Bloomberg's Brackets for a Cause. All of them designated a favorite charity. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio was among the contestants.

"What can you say, unbelievable game and unbelievable result for the children and families of East Harlem and the South Bronx," Berlin said right after the buzzer. "And a huge thanks to Gary Cohn for his college basketball IQ and his belief in Harlem RBI."

Cohn's reaction? "It's awesome for the kids," he said.

Entering Saturday's semifinals, Cohn led the field with 144 points. He has Wisconsin all the way, beating Kentucky and then beating Duke. All the Badgers needed to do was oust Kentucky, because most of Cohn's closest competitors picked UK. So, Opening Day will come on a happy note to some MLB friends.

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers has the highest score of anyone who picked Duke in the bracket, but at 134 points he would not be able to reach Cohn if the Blue Devils were to win Monday. The scores are at bloomberg.com/charitybracket.

"Gary has been supporting our organization for the last five years or so and played a key role in our capital campaign to build the new Dream Charter School, and he has been the lead honoree at our annual gala," Berlin said. "He's an incredible supporter."

Berlin said of Harlem RBI: "This was not in our budget. ... Just having someone of that stature behind the organization means quite a bit.

"We have not planned what we would do. I can tell you that it would go toward the continued expansion of our programs in the South Bronx, as well as the continued growth of our school both in the pre-kindergarten and in our plans to grow the school into eighth grade next year as well. It would be put in the fiscal year 2016 budget, for big things coming down the pike that are as yet unpaid for."

One of the most remarkable parts of this whole thing is the fact that Berlin is just coincidentally a Wisconsin grad. It had nothing to do with Cohn picking the Badgers or choosing Harlem RBI.

"Totally coincidental," Berlin said.

Cohn picked Kentucky over Notre Dame (sweating out that finish), Wisconsin over Arizona, Duke over Gonzaga and Michigan State over Villanova. That was seven correct picks in the final eight, missing only with Villanova, which was shocked early. Cohn has Wisconsin over Duke in the final, but that is just a formality now.

"Gary is a Midwesterner [originally from Cleveland] and a Big Ten guy, and if you're a Midwestern guy, you watch a lot of Big Ten basketball, and East Coast bias doesn't always play out," Berlin said. "But it's probably a good against-the-grain pick more than anything. I think 75 percent of the pool picked Kentucky. ... It's pretty cool."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.