“If you have skills, it’s easy to play the game. But it’s what you do off the field that dictates whether or not you’re a star.” – Willie Mays
I was thinking a lot yesterday during the Yankees off-day about what an off-day would consist of for the guys. Rest, being the number one priority. A little tweaking or practicing, perhaps. Spending time with their families or friends. If it was a little warmer, perhaps a day by the pool or at the beach. It reminded me that the private side to the Yankees is often seen in public, not because of the looming paparazzi, but because of what they choose to do to give back.
One of the many things I’ve always admired about the team is how much they are determined to give back, both as individuals and as an organization. As an organization, they give back publicly every year through HOPE Week, and this summer will be their 5th year giving back and honoring charities that may not have such a high-profile. It’s their way not only to give back to good causes but also to give a voice to people who may not have one. Everyone in the Yankees organization participates, from the minor leaguers to star athletes and alumni to the coaching staff, executives, and the owners.
Outside of HOPE Week, there are a number of other projects and foundations underway, serving various communities and special needs as set up by the individual players on the team. (And there are many more than what I listed here.) For example:
- Curtis Granderson established his Grand Kids Foundation that helps support scholarships and grants to schools for arts, sciences, and other educational pursuits, as well as inner city baseball initiatives.
- Mark Teixeira is a large supporter of the Harlem RBI program via his own Dream Team 25 foundation, which sees a 98% graduation rate in some of the poorest areas of Harlem utilizing sports as an opportunity for community and education for the kids of that area.
- Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation has been helping kids in New York, Michigan, and Florida for 17 years, promoting a healthy lifestyle through baseball, student leadership training (“Jeter’s Leaders”), community outreaches (“Holiday Express”), and educational scholarships.
Following their lead, giving his name to charitable causes through action, Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman has been lending his support to various causes for the past few years, including a sleeping in a parking lot to help raise awareness for Covenant House (a homeless support organization) and rappelling down a 22-story building for the city of Stamford, Connecticut. Yesterday, he was invited by the army’s Golden Knights to tandem jump from a plane in South Florida for the Wounded Warrior Project, a foundation created to help the service men and women (and their families) injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. On an adrenaline rush from his first successful jump, he volunteered for another go and broke his ankle on the 2nd landing, which required surgery last night. He seems to remain positive about the injury, noting that it only seems to bring more awareness to the project. At least this is one injury on the Yankees that won’t affect on-field play. We wish him fast healing and suggest he stay on the planes instead of jumping from them from now on.
Cashman’s public support (and ultimate injury) just reminded me of all the good things these Yankees do all the time for their selected communities. They recognize the importance of giving back to the community that supported them all these years. Not everyone can do everything, which is why each of these men specialize their foundations and to the community that means something to them. They are setting a good example for their younger teammates to do something that can make a difference. Philanthropy should be the norm, and not just for the public athletes, but for the everyday people. Kindness and charity are a gift you can give all year-round no matter what your resources. I can’t wait to see what more good things come out of these charities and other yet-to-be recognized organizations this year and in the years to come.
Note: No organizations paid or asked to be in or promoted through this blog post. The author chose these charities out of free will and hopes any interested readers will research and support any charity that speaks to them. The author supports a variety of charities including some of those listed here.