MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Girardi's charity endeavors bring him peace

Yankees manager picks a different organization to support before almost every home game

Girardi's charity endeavors bring him peace

NEW YORK -- This has been one of the toughest seasons for Yankees manager Joe Girardi, but in one area, he's been pretty consistent.

Prior to just about every game at Yankee Stadium, Girardi has supported a charity or nonprofit organization whose charge is to help needy or sick people in the community.

Girardi wears the T-shirt sponsoring that particular organization into his daily pregame media conference and then offers a brief description of what that group is attempting to accomplish. His largess is amplified multifold by coverage of the YES Network.

On Sunday before the Yanks dropped a 5-0 decision to the Orioles, it was "The Vs. Cancer Foundation," an organization that empowers athletes to fund efforts to save the lives of children.

"[Mariners third baseman] Kyle Seager is really active in this, and I believe donates money for every hit that he gets," said Girardi, adding that the Yankees' top two Minor League clubs combined to raise $20,000 for "Vs." this season during the team's HOPE Week activities.

The concept was the brainchild of Jason Zillo, executive director of media relations for the Yanks, whose office researches the foundations and presents Girardi with a T-shirt and blurb describing the latest group each home game prior to him meeting with the media.

But make no mistake about it, Girardi is fully vested in helping less fortunate people by using the bully pulpit he's uniquely afforded managing the Yankees.

The list includes firefighters, military, Alzheimer's victims, the New York City Blood Center, the Jackie Robinson Foundation, breast cancer survivors, a program for free meals. And it goes on and on.

As Girardi so aptly said in the wake of Alex Rodriguez's departure only 16 days ago, he has a big heart.

"I think it's great. I think there are so many people who do such great things," Girardi said during a one-on-one interview in his office on Saturday. "There's so many people who need help in our society. They talk about what we can't live without. They talk about food and water and to me the next two things are love and hope. I'm a big believer in that. Charities give people love and hope, and that's why I think they're so important."

Girardi is such a big believer that he and his wife, Kim, also sponsor their own foundation. It's a two-person endeavor, and Girardi said they do their best to manage it behind the scenes.

Their foundation is called Catch 25. Girardi says the couple raise and donate money toward organizations fighting specific cancers and Alzheimer's, among other causes.

"Just because those things have touched our lives," Girardi said.

They also help troubled individuals.

"It's to give people hope who've fallen on hard times, for whatever reasons," Girardi added. "Whether it's health or loss of a job or just different things that people go through.

"People come to us, and sometimes it's word of mouth. We've had friends who have brought cancer patients to us. Maybe they can't pay the mortgage and they're going through treatment and have to take time off. That's something they shouldn't have to deal with."

The backdrop of it all has been perhaps Girardi's most emotional year in his nine as the team's manager. It began with high expectations, but their 8-16 start was the team's worst since 1984. For the first few months of the season, he stuck with and defended veteran players in which he had invested so much time.

When it became obvious that the group as constituted wasn't getting the job done, sweeping changes were made around the non-waiver Trade Deadline. In short order, Girardi said goodbye to favorites Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran, the .200 hitting A-Rod and watched as Mark Teixeira announced his retirement, effective at the end of the season.

An influx of players from the Minor League system, the most noteworthy being catcher Gary Sanchez, infused the club with a newfound energy that has thrust it from the .500 level back into contention for a playoff spot.

None of it has been easy.

"There's a lot that's happened this year," Girardi said. "I don't know, I think every year presents different challenges, but there have been a few this year."

The most difficult was the week following the announcement that A-Rod would be released after a game against the Rays on Aug. 12 at Yankee Stadium. For the three games preceding it against the Red Sox in Boston, Girardi was presented with the dilemma of how much to play the fading right-handed hitter, who wanted to start every day.

In the end, A-Rod had one at-bat as a pinch-hitter and another four as the DH at Fenway Park.

After A-Rod went 1-for-4 with an RBI double during his final game in New York, the usually staid Girardi broke down in tears.

"I mean, it was a difficult time, because I think people were trying to make it personal when it wasn't personal," Girardi said. "You know, I'm always about trying to do the right thing for the organization and winning games here. Relationships are obviously very important to me. And you sever some ties sometimes just because of the decisions you have to make.

"I think over time people understand and the people I'm dealing with understand. But at the time it's hard, because I was a player and I wanted to play every day, and I didn't necessarily play every day. It was hard and I tried to understand."

In one matter, there's no conjecture at all. And that's the support Girardi has given so many organizations this year. On Saturday, it was Folds of Honor, a group that awards academic scholarships "to men and women who have been disabled while fighting for our armed forces."

In 2015 alone, Folds of Honor provided 2,500 scholarships worth $13 million.

The manager obviously takes a lot of pride in supporting things like that.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.