ANAHEIM -- What’s usually just a glove on Guardians starter Aaron Civale’s non-throwing hand to field any ball hit his way is now serving as a courier to send one specific message to anyone who sees it: “The world is better when you’re here.”
Last summer, Civale made a trip to Wilson Sporting Good’s headquarters in Chicago to design a glove for his 2022 season. But he didn’t want to end things there. Before he left, he was sure to bring up his charitable efforts and was hoping to find a way to get his longtime sponsor, Wilson, involved. The company quickly jumped at the opportunity to assist him.
A percentage of the proceeds collected from anyone who purchases Civale’s navy blue A2000 AC43 GM glove will go to LifeAct, a local nonprofit in Cleveland working to prevent teen suicide and an organization chosen by Civale and his wife, Francesca Barilla.
“We’ve both lost people to mental health struggles,” Barilla said. “It was people who are very, very close to us that we feel like if we could help someone -- just one person -- going through similar struggles somehow, just letting people know the world is better when you’re here rather than not.”
LifeAct says suicide is the number one cause of death, after accidents, for people ages 10-34. Since 2010, suicide rates for children 10-14 have risen 136%. LifeAct’s efforts to provide effective treatment currently serve 200 Ohio schools and reach 30,000 students annually. Last year more than 2,500 students asked for help after attending LifeAct’s life-saving program.
“That’s kind of what we hope to achieve through this,” Barilla said. “Just kind of raising awareness and helping LifeAct get these programs out there for kids who are young and struggling, because mental health is not really something we excel at in this country in terms of programs and facilities for people who are mentally ill.”
This is just one of the many organizations that Civale and his wife have worked with over the past year since creating their foundation, Pearls for Perseverance.
“You count your blessings,” Barilla said, “and if you’re going to be blessed with a platform and a voice that’s able to be heard more so than if Aaron wasn’t in a career that he was in, we want to take advantage of that and do something good, right? What’s really the point of having all this if you’re not going to do something good with it? That’s how we always felt about it.”
The couple spent a lot of time preparing for their charitable efforts, mapping out exactly what they hoped to accomplish and how they wanted to share their mission. The name Pearls for Perseverance was perfect in Civale’s mind, knowing that the acronym “PFP” (short for pitchers’ fielding practice) was fitting for his position and goals.
“Breaking down, simply, the pitcher fields the ball,” Civale said. “If he can’t, there’s a bunch of players behind him that will make the play or at least give it their best shot and be there for backup and support. That concept we wanted to apply to anyone going through something. They’re going to give it their best shot and try and field what’s in front of them. If it gets past them, there’s people behind them that are going to pick up that slack and take care of whatever they can.”
Over the last year, Civale and his wife have sent the hurler’s warmup balls to kids at the Cleveland Clinic, he met with patients on the field prior to games last year and he assisted with Camp Curiosity (a camp for kids in kindergarten through third grade, focusing on STEM).
“We kind of just cast a wide net,” Barilla said. “Like I said ... when we first started the program and we were trying to pick the focus, it was really hard to pick just one thing because we’ve been affected by all these things that we’re trying to help out with.”
All of these efforts led Civale to this opportunity with Wilson, which has committed to matching the portion of the proceeds from the glove sales that will be donated to LifeAct.
“It’s cool to know that something that I have on my hand is going to hopefully help somebody somewhere else that might not even have any relation to baseball,” Civale said. “I think that’s pretty special.”