Focused initiative improves facilities, prepares kids for life beyond game
By Brian Dulik
Special to MLB.com |
CLEVELAND -- Indians owner Paul Dolan credits the game of baseball with helping him become the man that he is.
He hopes it can have a similar impact on many student-athletes in Northeast Ohio.
The Indians announced a focused initiative Tuesday afternoon, aiming to prepare youngsters to be successful adults while improving the quality of baseball and softball programs in the city.
Tribe pitcher Corey Kluber, shortstop Francisco Lindor and catcher Yan Gomes are among the players who have volunteered to be part of the program, which is being implemented by Cleveland Indians Charities.
"We understand that baseball has the ability to transform lives through the lessons it teaches," Dolan said. "For that reason, it's important that we develop a sustainable plan for youth baseball and softball in Greater Cleveland. We're proud to have the support of great partners as we undertake this mission."
The Indians' long-term commitment includes two new programs that include on- and off-the-field instruction at Progressive Field. Tribe Scholars will offer unique baseball experiences to students who strive for academic excellence in inner-city and inner-ring suburban schools.
Career Day invites players from the Cleveland Baseball Federation and Cleveland Metropolitan School District to visit the team's executive offices. They attend seminars in various departments, exposing them to job opportunities in the sport.
"We ran our first Career Day in January with 70 youths from grades 6-8 and will have a number of them back to shadow members of the front office," Indians executive director of community impact Rebecca Kodysh said. "It's been a very positive experience for everyone involved."
That includes the four Community Partners that have teamed up with Cleveland Indians Charities this season.
Cleveland-based MCPC returns for its second year, and Minute Men Staffing, Victory Park Ohio and Mo Vaughn Transport have joined the project that aims to improve education, health and fitness.
Mo Vaughn Transport has strong ties to the sport, as its president and CEO is former American League MVP and Red Sox All-Star Mo Vaughn. He plans on attending the Indians' season opener against Boston on April 4.
"Baseball is a great sport, and Mo wants to support any program that is for the kids," said Mark Cuccia, president of sales and operations for Mo Vaughn Transport. "The Indians presented us with a great opportunity to do something good for the city, so we were happy to become involved."
The Indians have long provided baseball and softball uniforms -- along with equipment, fields and coaching clinics -- annually to 3,300 Cleveland youth athletes at no cost.
Their Community Partners will team up on that endeavor and contribute resources to Fields for the Future, which improves ball diamonds that are in poor condition in the city. Gomes continues as the spokesperson for the effort.
Former AL Cy Young Award winner Kluber and Rookie of the Year runner-up Lindor are formally participating in the organization's initiatives for the first time.
Kluber's Kids will host a patient from Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital at every Wednesday home game, and the Lindor Smile Squad will welcome a Miracle League athlete to each Monday home game.
"We recognize our unique position in this community, and we take our responsibility seriously," Indians senior vice president of public affairs Bob DiBiasio said. "As native Clevelanders, the Dolan family has also had a long-standing commitment to our community.
"With the help of our Community Partners, we believe we can reignite the spark for the love of the game at the youth level while also making a positive impression on their lives."
Brian Dulik is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.