'Pay It Forward' to benefit RBI youth programs

'Pay It Forward' to benefit RBI youth programs

'Pay It Forward' to benefit RBI youth programs
This might be the day that you:

• Give your next game ticket, or one you can't use, to someone who never has the chance to go.

• Donate to standup2cancer.org or MLB.com/JapanRelief to help an important cause, and perhaps collect donation money from colleagues at work.

• Catch a foul ball and give it to a girl or boy.

• Pay for the hot dog or game program of the person standing behind you in line.

Be creative, because Thursday is International Pay It Forward Day. Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Major League Baseball's official hotel for baseball road trips, is celebrating the date by launching a six-week campaign encouraging acts of kindness to benefit MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) youth initiative.

From now through June 9, citizens are invited to share on the Holiday Inn Facebook page how they "pay it forward." With each act of kindness posted, the hotelier will "pay it forward" and donate an MLB game ticket to benefit RBI -- up to 5,000 tickets.

While such acts of kindness typically do not come with expectations of appreciation, MLB is going to reward one of them with a free trip for two to the 82nd All-Star Game on July 12 in Phoenix.

"Whether paying tolls for the person behind you in line, offering your seat to an elderly person on public transportation or simply holding the door open for others, our campaign celebrates the Everyday Heroes that do their part to make the world a better place," said Del Ross, vice president, U.S. Sales and Marketing of InterContinental Hotels Group. "By supporting RBI, we are not only enriching the lives of underserved youth, but also helping to build the next generation of Everyday Heroes."

Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith was the first to "pay it forward" by posting his entry to the Facebook page.

"Today I sent a personal message on my special Hall of Fame stationery to a Cardinal Fan in Illinois as a surprise for her 90th birthday," he wrote. "It didn't take me long, but it will bring a big smile to her face when she opens it. What have you done lately to Pay it Forward?"

Smith's campaign kickoff post will send a lucky boy or girl to a Cardinals game this summer in St. Louis, where he became a legend and his No. 1 jersey was retired. Through his own Facebook and Twitter accounts, Smith is also encouraging his fans and former and current MLB players to post about their good deeds.

"I'm really impressed with what Holiday Inn is doing to support the RBI program, which provides underprivileged youth with a variety of new experiences and teaches them the value of teamwork while having fun along the way," Smith said.

A study from researchers at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley found that when people benefit from acts of kindness, they "pay it forward" by helping others, creating a cascading effect that influences others to do the same.

RBI provides opportunities to play baseball and softball, encourages academic success and teaches the value of teamwork and other important life lessons to underserved youth from urban communities. Founded in 1989, RBI has served more than 1 million youth and was front and center with a clinic and ribbon-cutting in Newark, N.J., during MLB's annual Jackie Robinson Day recognitions on April 15.

In 2010 alone, 300 RBI leagues served more than 170,000 baseball and softball participants, and the program continues to provide children with opportunities on and off the field.

Buy a souvenir for a fan sitting next to you. Thank someone around you at work or in your neighborhood. Give an unused ticket to someone instead of looking for face value. Hey, you might even be a center fielder who makes a diving catch to save your pitcher's no-hitter.

Whatever it takes, celebrate International "Pay It Forward" Day around baseball, and remember that this year, it will last at least another six weeks.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.