My fifth season on the beat has officially come to a close, but these newsletters will continue to be delivered to your inbox each week throughout the offseason. Let’s get into the good stuff:
It’s the season of giving.
The world tends to get a little more generous as the holidays roll around, and the Guardians are no exception. They had more than 30 front office members step away from the ballpark last Thursday to participate in the Food Bank’s Muni Lot distribution by handing out food to more than 5,000 families.
But for the Guardians, this isn’t a once-a-year contribution. This team prides itself on being as active in its community (if not more than) as any other club across the country. And they have the numbers to prove it.
From the beginning of the season until its end on Oct. 1, the Guardians had 44 players, coaches and staff participate in community-related events. That totaled more than 275 hours of charitable work, which impacted 61,300 people over the 263 events they hosted.
This roster is full of players who are actively looking for ways to get involved in charitable efforts. But if they ever need any extra motivation, the Guardians’ community department has been thorough in proving that work off the field translates to better on-field performance.
In the seven days that Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti hosted Cleveland Clinic patients at the ballpark, Cleveland went 7-0. Any time Andrés Giménez got out in the community, the Guardians went 12-4.
The Guardians saw even more convincing trends. Bo Naylor participated in Cleveland’s famous Chess Club two times. He hit one homer the first day and two the next. On the days that his brother, Josh, worked in the community, Josh went 22-for-48 (.458) at the plate with 12 RBIs, one homer and three doubles.
Yes, maybe this is all happenstance, but the Guardians have put in tremendous effort to show the good that can come from caring about your community and the players took note. Twenty players on the 2023 roster put in at least three hours of volunteering in some capacity. Eight of those players engaged for more than 10 hours.
Here are a few that went above and beyond:
Josh Naylor: Naylor led everyone in time spent giving back, totaling nearly 18 hours across 23 events. He was often seen at the Ronald McDonald House as part of his “Cooking with Naylor” initiative that created boxed lunches for families at the hospital.
Triston McKenzie: He may have been hurt for most of the season, but McKenzie continued to mentor kids through his True2U Mentorship program, was a frequent participant in Cleveland’s Chess Club and sat with kids on the field during Friday fireworks over the summer.
Steven Kwan: Kwan hopped on board with McKenzie’s True2U Mentorship program and was the man to beat in the Guardians’ Chess Club. His 15 events led to 15 hours in the community, as he impacted 2,285 people.
Andrés Giménez: Giménez wanted his own initiative that spoke to him, which led to his creation of Art with Andrés. He visited schools around the Cleveland area, painting and creating masterpieces with young children in art class. He also served as a youth baseball and softball ambassador, becoming the face of Guardians Summer Camps.
Sam Hentges: Hentges was one of the most involved players in the community, regularly hosting young Cleveland Clinic patients (with Antonetti) at the ballpark for home games with special trips down to the field pregame. He also joined a handful of teammates in Cleveland’s “Ready to Respond” program that works with local first responders.
José Ramírez: Ramírez may have made the biggest splash this year, donating a new turf field to Lincoln-West High School and the Cleveland Guardians Nike RBI baseball teams.
Will Brennan: The Guardians’ Community Rookie of the Year goes to Brennan, who spent more than 16 hours volunteering this season. In the 15 events he attended, he reached more people than anyone else in the organization, impacting 3,581 members of the community.
This only highlights a handful of players, but the Guardians had contributions from every spot on the roster. It was an example set by their former manager, Terry Francona, who used “Tito’s Military Salute” to honor veterans with a standing ovation during each home game. Even though Francona is no longer the club’s skipper, it’s clear the same message will be relayed to the team in 2024.
During new skipper Stephen Vogt’s interview process, he brought up his goals of working with local autistic and special-needs children. With the precedent that has already been set in this organization, Vogt knew Cleveland was going to be the perfect fit.
July 14, 2002: If you want to make sure your brief career that consisted of 198 games over five seasons is remembered, you need to have an iconic moment -- like hitting a walk-off grand slam against the best closer in the history of the sport. Bill Selby was up with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning at Jacobs Field as Cleveland trailed by one. With Mariano Rivera on the rubber, Selby lifted a high fly ball to right field that reached the second row of the stands just inside the foul pole. Selby celebrated by throwing his right fist in the air multiple times during a lightning-fast home run trot as Rivera walked off the mound shaking his head.
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