Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson is an All-Star on and off the field. Since being traded to his hometown of Atlanta before the 2022 season, Matt has made a significant contribution to the Braves Country community by fundraising on behalf of autism awareness and advocacy, providing inclusive gameday experiences for fans with sensory sensitivities and creating memories with young Braves fans with life-altering illnesses.
Matt grew up in Lilburn, a suburb of Atlanta, and attended Parkview High School with lifelong friend Reece Blankenship, who is a non-verbal autistic. In 2010, when Matt was in 10th grade, he became an applied behavior analysis therapist for Reece, who was in ninth grade at the time. Matt continued to work with Reece throughout high school and carried on that role in the offseasons as a Minor League player in the Oakland Athletics farm system.
When Reece began to dream about opening a fitness-based therapy center in his hometown for others on the autism spectrum, Matt was the first to pledge a $5,000 donation to help start the company. ReClif opened its doors in 2017 with the mission to change the conversation surrounding autism by empowering, accepting, supporting and advocating for people on the spectrum.
In 2019, ReClif started a nonprofit arm, the ReClif Community, aiming to provide a chance for more typical life experiences for individuals living with autism and those that care for them. ReClif Community also intends to empower beneficiaries with cognitive-focused activities, social outreach, scholarships and societal inclusion. In January 2023, Matt and his wife, Nicole, hosted their inaugural Casino Night at Truist Park, raising more than $250,000 for ReClif Community to continue their work in the autism community. They plan to replicate this event in 2024.
Additionally, Matt generously donates 1% of his salary to the Atlanta Braves Foundation. Through his annual contribution, the Braves have created “The Matt Pack,” a program that invites families impacted by autism to enjoy a complimentary, sensory-friendly game experience at Truist Park. The handicap-accessible seats are branded with Matt’s name and number, and include a gift pack. The seats are also conveniently located close to a quiet space at the ballpark, and Matt Pack guests are given a lanyard that grants them access to this special area.
Matt also enjoys hosting young Braves fans from Make-A-Wish at Truist Park, providing memorable experiences and enhancing kids’ wishes. This season, Matt donated his salary on Jackie Robinson Day to the Players Alliance to support struggling inner-city and rural baseball teams. He is a leader in the clubhouse and an integral part of the Braves Country community. His calm demeanor and accepting manner have been instrumental in his being a friend to those who need it most.