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Each month, Kaulig Giving and Fox 8 will highlight people, organizations and charities making a difference in Northeast Ohio. It’s time to celebrate Cleveland’s Own.
Hi, I’m Matt Kaulig, and I’d like to introduce you to an organization committed to positively impacting the community by supporting youth baseball and softball in Cleveland. Let’s take a look at Cleveland Indians Charities!
Bobby D. I’m so excited to be here at Progressive Field today. You know, as a baseball fan and now as a partner of the Cleveland Indians, I’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know you, you know, over the past year and the opportunities and the commitment that you guys have to the community. So, talk about the mission of the Cleveland Indians charities,
Well, Cleveland Indians Charities, Matt, was created way back in 1989. So, for the past 30 years, we’ve had a commitment to the youth of Northeast Ohio. We want to make a difference in their lives. We want to transform lives, especially those who are undeserved and who truly need a helping hand. And we do so by providing resources and opportunities in the area of education and recreation. We partner with three key institutions in the city of Cleveland to do so. One, most important, near and dear to our hearts, baseball and softball. We truly believe in athletics, baseball, softball, teaching those life-lesson skills.
Making sure that people understand there’s discipline and teamwork and cooperation and the true spirit of competition. All of the things that are involved in athletics, we want to bring to the table so that a young person can grow and develop.
So, who are the main clubs or beneficiaries of the Cleveland Indians Charities?
For decades we have been, 100 percent, fully funding the boys baseball and girls softball programs for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
100 percent! It happened with one phone call. And that’s how Larry Dolan, when he purchased the Cleveland Indians, one phone call from the athletic director at the Cleveland Public Schools. They were going to cancel all sports other than two in the fall, winter and spring. And unfortunately, baseball and softball, we’re gonna be two that we’re going to be eliminated. I get a phone call from the late Leonard Jackson, a great man just recently passed, saying that, sadly, all the work that we had put in together.. that no more baseball and softball.
So, I call Larry Dolan, the owner of the team, who played at St. Ignatius High School, was a highschool catcher. And he goes “Bobby, I couldn’t imagine not playing baseball for my high school, especially my senior year. So, whatever it takes”. It’s all it took. So 100 percent fully fund boys, baseball and girls softball in the city of Cleveland. We are instrumental in the city of Cleveland’s Rec Summer baseball leagues. We provide resources so kids could play free of charge. We also for three decades have been connected with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio to help them on their mission to be a strong and positive presence in young people’s lives. The work that the Boys and Girls clubs is remarkable. So, we’ve partnered with the Cleveland Public Schools, the Cleveland Rec Department and the Boys and Girls Clubs are three of our main benefactors.
Do they play games here? Do they get to come to Progressive Field?
There’s a senate championship game for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.
Which is always a treat. We also have a high school hardball classic that we play. So, anywhere from six to eight teams will get an opportunity to play on a big league diamond for the benefit of Cleveland Indians Charities, which obviously is a thrill for any young athlete to stand where Frankie Lindor stands at shortstop. So, that really is a treat. I have to tell you Matt, that last year we were excited with a Major League Baseball All-Star Game. And what we were able to do through the Major League Baseball All-Star legacy program, to make a lasting difference in our community. First and foremost, renovating baseball fields. Two baseball fields in the city of Cleveland. We provided the artificial synthetic turf at two city parks. The first one at Brookside Park at Talty Field. We renovated it into the Jim Thome Complex and at Luke Easter Park. We completely renovated field number seven. In honor of two of the great former Cleveland Indians sluggers. You know our weather in the springtime in Cleveland and baseball, to have synthetic turf available to these young athletes, it’s absolutely life changing.
Some of the other things we were able to do, we built a digital arts and music studio to help a notes for notes at the East Tech Boys and Girls Club. We were able to build and renovate the Student Veterans Center on the campus of Baldwin Wallace University. But I think of all the things that we do, Matt, and this is near and dear to your heart, I believe. I think one of the most important things that we do is the training and development of the public school and rec coaches. You being a highschool athlete, Division One quarterback, you know how a coach can have an incredible impact on a young person’s life. So through the Indians way to coaching excellence program, that we have in place, to teach these people that work for the Cleveland Public Schools, the coaches at the rec center, the appropriate way to truly make that positive impact on a kid, it’s truly something special. So, of all the things that we do, that may be the one that has the most lasting impact for our young people. And we do it for one simple reason, and that’s to transform lives of the young people of Northeast Ohio to give them a good, solid foundation.
For a successful life.
You know, sometimes it’s their parents. And like you said, the coaches, you know, sometimes ARE their parents.
You know, they mentor them as much as the parents do or, you know, more than the parents do. So, it’s amazing what you guys do for those kids.
Raph, it’s been such a pleasure to get to know you over the last year. Your smile and your personality are so contagious and everybody that knows you knows that. And it’s no wonder you’ve had such a successful career. You’ve been now with the Cleveland Indians for over eight years.
And so, can you talk about the partnership that the Cleveland Indians Charities and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District has had and what the impact that that’s had on your life?
For me personally, working here at the Cleveland’s Indians and the impact that I see on an everyday basis. It kind of means a little bit more, ,than maybe the average person. So, the special part for me is I was that kid growing up in the inner city of Cleveland, growing up in the CMSD schools , a lot of different things that we do every day here to support CMSD schools. I was the recipient of it, my family, my brothers, my sisters, my neighbors, my friends, like we all were recipients of the good work that the Cleveland Indians were doing. So, I would say growing up as a kid, you always want to give your best effort to school and your best efforts your teammates, right?
And you never really knew or understood where those jerseys were coming from or who prepped the field, or who took care of these things. You just knew when you showed up, you can play baseball. And that was the fun and exciting thing. But then when you come here and you work here and you understand what the Dolan family, how much they care for the community, you get to work and you see all the different people who put the time and energy, making sure all those little kid, the little Raphael Collins and everybody else can go in the summertime enjoy and play those games. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. And it’s really, really fulfilling for me to to see the whole 360 view.
So when you were a kid, did you ever get to play in the stadium?
So honestly, I didn’t get a chance to play a stadium. Yeah, I was all-senate. So, I was recognized here at the stadium. Me and I think maybe, think it was maybe twelve or so other different people I played against in the Senate league. So, I was all-senate and we got to be recognized here, which was pretty cool.
What position do you play?
For my team. I played a lot. Pretty much everywhere. So (laughing) mostly centerfield, shortstop and pitcher. Probably should have stuck with the pitching but I always wanted to hit. It just felt good to step in the box and swing the bat. So..
Awesome. So what high school do you go to?
I graduated from John F. Kenny High School, which is on the east side. The pretty cool thing about that is, I think Bob Dibiasio mentioned a little bit earlier about the legacy projects, and I would say the first time I ever hit a homerun was that Luke Easter Park. And that’s one of the fields that we just renovated. So, kind of seeing where they came from, being the dirt and grass field that I played on, to now being a turf field that everybody will enjoy for next 10 and 20 plus years. It’s incredible to see.
What’s your role in the Cleveland Indians Charities?
So, here at the Cleveland Indians. It’s a small team and we make a huge impact. But this is a small team of people who kind of work on a lot of different projects. So, I’m actually a corporate partnerships and premium hospitality team. But through that and through just all the different people in our company, I’m able to help our and assist with a lot of different community efforts. And again, maybe just kind of, as I’ve touched on before, it means a little bit more to me growing up here in inner city Cleveland and this being my home team and the team that I always room for. Not just me, but seeing my dad. This is the team he rooted for and his dad. So, it means so much more for me to, to work hearing in marketing, corporate marketing, but then also to do a lot, so much with the community team.
Do you have any advice that you would give to any of the youth that are maybe watching this interview?
I would say some of the different things as far as growing up in the CMSD schools, those relationships that you build and the comradery that you have amongst your teammates, you’ll never forget that. Those are different lessons and things that, you know this playing sports, those interactions that you have between your coaches and between teammates is special. It’s not just special because you’re playing a game. But they teach you life lessons. And there’s so much that has to go into it before you can play a game. You need to perform well in school. I mean, that’s the most important piece, right? You need to perform well in school and then you can worry about the sports. So, as long as you give your best effort in the classroom, your best effort to your teammates, that’s gonna take you pretty far.
Well, it’s amazing what you’re given back, personally, you know, to the city of Cleveland through the Cleveland Indians Charities. And it’s just amazing what the Cleveland Indians do for the community. So, we all thank you for that. And it’s great to have you. And thank you for all you do!
To learn more about how you can help. Go to indians.com/community. Make it a great day!