Friday, May 30, 2008

Being There (Part Two)

As was written yesterday, Our Washington Nationals Chad Cordero is a generous young man. Learning from his Father, Our Number 32 is giving back is his own way now--and Being There for others in need. You well know--not every day any person become a Major League Baseball Player. To be a professional athlete takes a gift and some talent. Skills which many of us never developed or probably never possessed. But that also doesn't mean Big League Players are not human.

"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" chatted with me recently about his personal efforts to help others in need--in and around his Hometown of Chino, California. For 20 Minutes, Chad and I spoke by phone. Willingly, he gave me some of his private time to talk about his work--outside the game--that is very important to him. No--this conversation was not about baseball. This chat was about making a difference--in lives.

With that--here we go with My Conversation With Chad Cordero.

I was talking with your Dad about all the things you have done for people in and around the community in which you grew up. What really impressed me is that you started to give back—well before you were established in The Major Leagues? (SBF)

“I have always been that way—pretty much right after I first signed (his first professional contract) I donated to my college (Cal-State Fullerton) so they could get a new batting cage for the school. And just recently, I just bought my High School a new Tractor (for the infield grooming) and Scoreboard for their baseball field. And some computers for my aunt’s classrooms.”

“This is a cool thing to be able to do. Many of these folks I am now helping—assisted me in growing up. Now, I have the chance to give back and help them. It’s neat.”

You touched on an important point—your helping of others is not just about sports, but also about education. (SBF)

“Without my education I would not be where I am right now. To be able to go back, talk to some kids in the classrooms, and be able to buy some laptops for the teachers and computers for the classrooms—it’s a BIG DEAL. Because--it helps those that may not have had the opportunity, otherwise, to get a better education. They can now focus a lot more on their studies. When I was in school—computers helped me a lot. To be able to give back like that and know I can make a small difference—is a very nice feeling. Makes me feel good.”

I would image that as much as the kids at these schools are happy to see you—the teachers are very excited to see you too—thanks to your donations? (Chuckling—SBF)

(Laughing back) “Yeah, they are very happy to see me!!”

The first grade teachers that received the laptops from you. I am looking at the picture of them from the newspaper article—what was their reaction? (SBF)

“Excited to say the least and very thankful. These schools are on such a tight budget that sometimes they can’t really afford to pick up those types of things. Whenever anyone comes in and offers to buy stuff like that---they get really excited. No question—they appreciated the offer.”

At your High School in which you graduated—Don Lugo—you donated $62,000 to your alma mater to build a new weight room for sports training. I am very curious—what was that weight room like BEFORE you stepped up to offer this gift? (SBF)

“I don’t even know if you could call it a weight room, basically. It was just an extra room near a shop class with two or three machines and that was about it. It was a really beat up kind of place—something the school had just sort of thrown together—just to say they had a weight room.”

Is Don Lugo a large high school in that district? How many kids attend?

“There might be 3000, I think. It’s a decent size school. Not a giant school, but it’s big enough where they have enough kids there that play sports.”

To make these donations, let’s say to Don Lugo, is this something you walk in on, knew somebody and said: ‘Hey, I want to do this.’ How do these efforts work out for you? (SBF)

“The icebreaker at my high school was my former coach—Joe Marcos. I grew up with him playing baseball together. His brother (Frank) was my pony league coach when I was 13. (Frank Marcos is now Director of The Major League Scouting Bureau and helped Chad in his efforts to reach professional baseball.) So, we have a long relationship with him (Joe). And my parents still talk to him all the time. They (Chad’s parents) still go out to see the high school games—whenever they get a chance. They live right across the street.”

“At other times, things just sort of came up. Some asked if I could do anything and I said ‘Yes—just let me know how much you need (for the project) and I will do it’.”

Have you ever had the chance to speak to the kids about that weight room at Don Lugo? (SBF)

“Unfortunately, not directly with the kids. But, I have had the opportunity to speak with some of the parents from The Booster Club. They were really excited about it because without that (weight room), the kids would not have been able to train properly for athletics. This donation made everything a lot easier for them (The Booster Club). They did not have to do as much fundraising. And they could concentrate now on other projects. They actually could not believe I actually did it.” (Chuckling)

And the baseball coach was mighty thrilled about what you purchased for him? (SBF)

(Laughing) “Yeah, without a doubt. I bought him a brand new pitching machine, scoreboard, and of course the weight room too.”

You seem happy to be able to do these favors for others. I sense that when you were younger—you wished others could do the same for you? (SBF)

“Absolutely. When you are a kid and someone else can help you—or your team out—or in school—it makes you (as a kid) feel good, important. Someone wants you to have the same opportunity that you might not otherwise have. Look at the baseball facility (at Don Lugo)—the kids there can now play in a decent baseball facility. They don’t have to worry about something breaking and going unrepaired. They can just play and learn the game. That makes me feel really good.”

It’s also interesting that you donated funds to purchase items for Ayala High School—another school in your district that you did not attend. And I love that name “AYALA” for obvious reasons. (Both of us busting out laughing). I know that this particular school is named after your mom’s uncle. How much did that have to do with your donation and how much was for need? (SBF)

“The relationship had one thing to do with it. But the head coach at Ayala (Kevin Bowler) was the assistant coach when I was at Don Lugo. He knows my family very well. And my little brother also helped coach the varsity team there. They don’t have a whole lot of money at that school. He was a brand new coach going in there and they needed to fix up the field. So, I offered and bought them uniforms and other things. It made everything on him a lot easier.”

Over the previous winters you have done more than just give donations, you have also given your personal time—Principal For The Day, speaking to kids in classrooms—is this something you seek on your own? (SBF)

“I am always up for anything to do. The Principal of The Day was something my Aunt (Eva Rodriguez) asked if I was interested in doing for her school system. Sure, you know I would do it. She’s a first grade teacher. Then luckily, I was assigned to a particular school where the classrooms were just not numbered but they were named Nationals Park or Shea Stadium or other ballparks like that. Those were the names of the classrooms. It was very cool to go into that environment and see all that happens in there. Given the chance to see how a school operates behind the scenes—you appreciate more what others do in education.”

Was there a classroom named RFK Stadium? And was it rundown and dingy? (Laughing--SBF)

(Laughing) “No, fortunately no.”

I also understand that you coach Winter Ball with your brother, Matthew at Don Lugo. (SBF)

“Of course, I enjoy doing that sort of stuff. For me, it was a lot of fun to go back and hang out with all the kids and try to help them improve. I have done it for a couple of years and it was really a lot of fun.”

What have you been doing with Matthew and The Make-A-Wish Foundation? (SBF)

“My brother is a big part of that organization. I have donated some stuff, and also some money so they could sponsor the kids. Whenever he gets the chance to bring me along, I make myself available. In the past, I have attended some fundraising parties with him. It’s not only fun, but exciting to be apart of something so good.”

“I have no problem donating the money, so this organization can make a kids wish come true. Let’s say a kid wants to go to Disneyland or be a Sheriff For A Day—I help them out. Since they (Make-A-Wish) are a non-profit organization—they don’t have a lot of money. So, they need people like me to donate and support their cause. Whatever I can do to help, I will try.”

Even helping your Sister Ashley hold a fundraiser for Hillview Acres (home for abused children) was something you could not turn your attention away from. (SBF)

“I put on a clinic for her to raise money. And for kids to attend the clinic—they had to bring a toy for admittance. My sister then took all those toys to the home for abused kids. Since The Clinic was held around Christmas—the timing could not have been better—and kids that do not normally get a Christmas—were able to have one—thanks to what my sister was able to do for them—with a little help from me. I believe we had 100 Kids (attend the clinic). So, that’s 100 toys these other youngsters would not have normally received. They experienced the fun of Christmas.”

I find it impressive that you were involved in all these donations and fundraisers, well before you were making the big bucks in The Major Leagues? (SBF)

"It's a part me. The way I was brought up."

Are you working on anything in the near future in community projects? (SBF)

“No, not right now, although I am sure something will come up soon enough. Something always comes up. I am going to be donating some more computers to first grade teachers (at E.J. Marshall Elementary School). Right now—that is the only thing I have going on.”

When you are home and walking around the neighborhood—I would take it that you are pretty popular—and not just because of being a Major League Player? (SBF)

(Laughing) “A little bit. When I go back to my parent’s house, I usually try to make a visit to the old High School—see how things are going there. It’s pretty cool.”

It is amazing how one gift—even a very small item—for you—can be a world of difference for someone else? (SBF)

“Exactly True. It’s why I enjoy doing it.”

“Chino is a middle class neighborhood. Not a really fancy place. At one time it was mainly dairy farms. Over the last couple of years, developers have bought them up. My Godfather grows strawberries. It’s that type of city, lots of cows and that sort of stuff. And people that need some help."

What kind of response do you get from kids at the elementary schools? (SBF)

“Most of the time, it takes them a little bit to realize what’s going on (When Chad shows up to speak with them). But, they get really excited. I go and speak at my aunt’s classroom and they have a video she plays for them. Once they see the video and realize that’s me on the television screen—their faces grow these huge smiles and they begin laughing. They really can’t believe it’s me that’s pitching to Barry Bonds, or someone else.”

She doesn’t play “Hail To The Chief” when you walk into the room, does she? (SBF)

(Laughing) “No.”

With that--My Conversation With Chad Cordero came to an end. For a few minutes longer we talked baseball--but mostly for fun. Nothing like talking to "The Chief". The African Queen and I only wish he was playing right now. We miss him on the field in the 9th inning. Sohna's palpitating heart awaits "The Chief Cardiologist's" return.

Clearly though, Our Number 32 has his priorities in order. Does Chad Cordero HAVE To donate his time and fortune to others? No--he does not. Caring is a human trait. A feeling of belonging. A willingness to be a part of society.

"The Most Thrilling Closer In The Game" may not exactly fit into the "EVERYMAN" category--but Chad Cordero has not lost the fact that he can make a difference. No matter your position in society--he well knows--anyone can BE THERE for others--as long as they are willing to try. "The Chief" learned his lessons young and is, thankfully, carrying forward those moral beliefs today.

Sohna and I are very proud he also represents Our Washington Nationals.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this pair of articles. In 2006, when Chad was nominated for the Clemente and Miller awards, I thought it was to his credit that he was taking on community service.

I appplaud his work with children on their academics. It's a given that a professional athlete will have credibility with athletics, and that's valuable. But I think encouraging children in their studies is very important, and someone who can establish a rapport with a classrom full of kids has a real gift.

Anonymous said...

Hey SBF,
I've got a question for you regarding President's Club seating.
Is tipping worked into the ticket price?
I know for the diamond club tipping is worked into the $35 food voucher, and last year in the diamond club at RFK, tipping was not worked in.
Also don you think the President's club is worth the price they are charging for it? and do you suggest people try to sit in the President's club if they have the opportunity?
Any help, would be greatly appreciated.

Screech's Best Friend said...

Ron: When Sohna and I sat in President's Club--tipping WAS NOT included in the ticket price. In fact, it's expected that you will give the order taker and server tips.

The value of Presidents Club depends on what you want out of it. The Meal inside the club is terrific. The seats are comfortable and very close to the field. And if you want to keep eating--so be it at your seat. It's nice to look down on the batting cage and Media Press Room and watch the postgame press conference. And there is alot of mingling going on. The Cost is subjective to what you value. Presidents Club is a completely different feeling than anywhere else at Nationals Park. Is their value there--yes. But that's up to the individual and what you want out of your evening at the ballpark. That's not a decision I can not make for you. Thanks.