Carrasco giving back in both Venezuela, US

Indians righty starts two foundations in 2016 with a focus on helping children

Carrasco giving back in both Venezuela, US

CLEVELAND -- While Carlos Carrasco watches his children open presents this Christmas, there will be hundreds of others enjoying gifts on behalf of the Indians pitcher. In fact, Carrasco's kids were a part of the process, as their home in Tampa, Fla., was transformed into a makeshift toy store in recent weeks.

The Carrasco home became the headquarters for a toy drive that he helped organize through his foundation, with more than a thousand items collected by his count. They were then packed -- with the help of his two sons and two daughters -- and shipped to kids in Carrasco's home country in Venezuela. It is just one of many charitable initiatives that the Cleveland starter has taken on in the past year.

Carrasco laughed when asked if he had to tell his children not to play with the presents.

"They don't open them," Carrasco said. "They understand. I've talked to my kids about it. They've helped me pack the boxes."

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In a video posted on Carrasco's Instagram page, his 5-year-old daughter, Camila, shows off a pile of Mickey Mouse stuffed dolls, packages of toothpaste and a box filled with more items. That was December's project. Throughout October and into November, while the Indians played deep into the postseason, Carrasco's house was also used for the collection of medical supplies to be sent to his home country.

Carrasco started two foundations in 2016. The Carlos Carrasco Foundation in the United States is focused on early-childhood education. Due to Carrasco's desire to do his part to help with the ongoing economic crisis in Venezuela, he also started a foundation in his native country. That way, he could partner with groups there to find avenues to distribute the toys, medical supplies and other goods.

"It's not easy right now there," Carrasco said. "Everyone knows what's happening in Venezuela. It's sad. And that's what we need the most. We need medical supplies. The hospitals have some stuff, but they need more. Many families have had to bring everything to the hospital with them so they can get attention. So, my wife and I thought about it and we said, 'Let's do something.'"

Through his foundation, and other groups assisting as well, Carrasco estimated that he has accumulated more than $500,000 worth of medical supplies, which will help health centers in roughly a dozen Venezuelan states. The pitcher is hoping to obtain more, too. He has also sent 1,000 blue backpacks for kids to use in Venezuelan schools. Carrasco added that he has 200 baseball gloves at his home that will be sent to the country, too.

Seeing the opportunities his career has provided for his own children, Carrasco said he feels compelled to help others.

"It's really important," Carrasco said. "I had people who helped me. Now that I have my family, that I have my own kids, I see how it's really important to help. So, that's what I want to do."

During the 2015 and '16 seasons, Carrasco was named Cleveland's nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. That is an honor that brings great pride to the pitcher, who has drawn inspiration from Clemente's humanitarian work throughout his career. In September, Carrasco wrote on his Twitter account that Clemente "inspired me to create" the Carlos Carrasco Foundation.

While discussing his offseason initiatives this week, Carrasco spoke via phone from the Dominican Republic. The trip served as a vacation for his family before the holidays, but also gave him a chance to contribute there, too. Carrasco brought 30 baseball gloves and 20 pairs of baseball spikes for children in the D.R.

In the United States, Carrasco has used his foundation to emphasize education in the Tampa Bay area and in Cleveland.

Carrasco, who became a U.S. citizen this year, made numerous visits throughout the baseball season to schools in the Cleveland area. His foundation also partnered with the Esperanza organization, which strives "to improve the academic achievement of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland by supporting students to graduate high school and promoting post-secondary educational attainment."

During the regular season's final month, Carrasco was recovering from a fractured right hand sustained two pitches into a start against the Tigers on Sept. 7. That did not stop him from being on hand at Luis Munoz Marin School in Cleveland to deliver books that were collected during a June book drive. Still sporting a blue cast, Carrasco read to a class.

"I remember the teacher was surprised I came," Carrasco said. "I wanted to be there."

Carrasco remembers coming to the U.S. as a 16-year-old who spoke no English. He is quick to praise a teacher from his days in the Phillies' farm system for helping him, and countless teammates and coaches along the way. A dozen years later, Carrasco sees how the steps he took, with help from others, have opened up channels for him to give back and create opportunities for his kids and countless others.

"I'm just trying to help," Carrasco said. "It's more important to help children."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.