CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians want you to get on your bike this summer to support a cause bigger than any baseball game: raising money for cancer research.
The organization has partnered with VeloSano, a charity cycling event, in hopes that the Cleveland community can come together and ride for a cure for cancer. All donations will go towards cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.
"It's a natural extension of our relationship with the Cleveland Clinic," Indians chairman and CEO Paul Dolan said. "For us, it's an effort to use the Cleveland Indians brand to support one of our key partners, the Cleveland Clinic, an iconic Cleveland institution. To work together along with other Cleveland companies, to raise money to cure cancer -- no better cause than that."
The first annual VeloSano bike ride, which in Latin roughly translates to "swift cure," is set for July 19-20. The Indians will have their own team of riders, including Dolan, and will be captained by director of baseball information Bart Swain. However, the team is also looking for support from its fans and other members of the community.
"We have about 15 people internally that are riding on our team, anywhere from 25 miles to 100 miles," Swain said. "We're looking for external people, too. We designed a jersey and if you sign up for our team, you get a free Indians bike jersey. So we're looking for as many people as we can get to help a great cause."
Designed by first-base coach and former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar, the jersey features the Indians logo on the front and the block "C" on the back. The coloring is a much lighter blue than Cleveland's regular baseball jerseys for safety reasons -- cars will need to be able to easily identify bikers on the road for the longer rides.
"I say the only reason [the jerseys] are wild is so people can see you," Alomar said. "Otherwise, you're wearing too much dark. It's kind of like when the cars get closer to you, that's when they see you. The way the options worked, it's got to stay Indians color, logo. They're pretty cool, they did a good job."
Alomar, as it turns out, is a big fan of recreational cycling. Since retiring as a player, he has picked it up in his spare time and bikes whenever he's free from his baseball duties.
"If I have an off-day, I'll go from 40 to 50 [miles]," Alomar said. "If I have a game that day then sometimes I'll do 25. Depending on the amount of time I have. If I have a lot of time, I'll go around 50."
VeloSano offers a variety of route lengths for participants to choose from, including one-day rides of 25, 48, 62 and 100 miles. For the more experienced or adventurous, two-day routes that total 173 and 230 miles are also available.
Alomar had hoped to participate in the 62-mile ride, but an Indians road series at Detroit will prevent him and most of the players from riding.
Dolan, who normally bikes between 25 and 30 miles, plans to attempt the 100-mile route.
"It's just to get there, however long it takes, by whatever means," he said.
All six of the VeloSano cycling route options begin in downtown Cleveland and stretch up along Ohio's northeastern Lake Erie shore.
"It starts down on the public mall and then heads out the east side, Mentor, Erie [Pa.]. The 100-milers go to Erie," Swain said.
Millions of Americans have been affected by cancer in one way or another. According to the American Cancer Society, almost one out of every four deaths in the United States are cancer related.
In time, the Indians hope that VeloSano can evolve into an event that not only works to find a cure for cancer, but also embodies the fighting spirit and heart of the Cleveland community.
"It'll probably take a few years to catch on, but it becomes an event," Dolan said. "The idea that something that the community owns, celebrates, is part of whether you ride or volunteer or are just on the side of the road cheering them on. Particularly since cancer has probably struck everybody in some form or another, people relate to what's happening out there and want to cheer it on."
To register for the Indians' team of riders or simply make a donation, visit www.velosano.org.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com.