CLEVELAND -- When Terry Francona read the statement the other day, he stared straight down at the paper in front of him and tried hard to compose himself. The weight of the announcement didn't really hit those in the room, because, Francona admits, his reading was too deliberate to convey
CLEVELAND -- When Terry Francona read the statement the other day, he stared straight down at the paper in front of him and tried hard to compose himself. The weight of the announcement didn't really hit those in the room, because, Francona admits, his reading was too deliberate to convey the emotion behind the words. And so the initial reports about what the Indians have done didn't gain much public traction.
But in a more private setting, ask Francona about the $1 million donation the Indians players, staff and ownership made to the newly created Larry Doby Fund in advance of this American League Division Series, and the two-time World Series-winning manager says something striking:
"It was probably the proudest moment I've ever had."
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The fund, named after the man who broke the American League color barrier with the Indians in 1947, is not a baseball-related initiative but rather an effort to work with youth-focused community organizations to help curb youth violence. The Cleveland Foundation will handle the grant application process for non-profit organizations in January.
Every member of the Indians roster, as well as the coaching staff, training staff, clubhouse staff and front-office staff contributed to the fund, with their donation totaling more than $500,000. From there, team owner Paul Dolan and minority owner John Sherman kicked in the rest to get it to the million mark.
"I know in the grand scheme of things, it's small," Francona said. "But it's something."
Here's how it came about: When the Indians were in Chicago last month, Francona struck up a conversation with the police officers in front of the dugout. They talked about the violence in underprivileged neighborhoods, and the police violence against African-Americans that has sparked necessary dialogue in this country.
"These kids in the inner-city, they have no chance," Francona said. "How are they supposed to be the next generation when they're not getting an education, or going to school and afraid they're going to get shot? Somebody has to start caring about them."
Police violence against African-Americans has sparked many public protests, including the silent message sent by Colin Kaepernick and other NFL and NBA players either by taking a knee or linking arms during the national anthem.
The Indians are making a gesture more about substance than symbolism. Francona approached two African-American players, Rajai Davis and Coco Crisp, to gauge their thoughts on the issues that have been placed front-and-center in the sporting world, and in the national discussion, and the passing of the hat began.
"That was something that obviously Tito had been thinking about it for a while," Davis said. "He brought it to a few of us guys and thought it was something nice that we could contribute. Knowing there are some underprivileged kids that could use the help, and considering all the things going on around sports, we just want to be able to make the statement and also help in the process."
Beyond winning the American League Central, the 2016 Indians hope this is their legacy in the Cleveland area. A baseball team is ultimately a collection of transient men. The complexion of the roster could be drastically different a year from now. But in this moment, on this team that so often bills itself as a family, this was a way to leave a lasting mark.
"This is something real special, to be a part of this team," Davis said. "You can tell we have the talent, and as the season progressed, you could see how that talent has grown, and how even the young guys have matured over the course of the season. They've showed their real character."
So has their manager.
"Tito is helping us to grow as players and as human beings," star shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "I can't thank him enough for that."
The Doby Fund was put together in just four days, and its simplicity and lack of overhead, Francona reasons, is its strength.
"Just the way the guys rallied together and did it, that's not an easy thing to do," he said. "It's not my place to tell the guys how to spend their money. I just think we're in a position where we can do some good, and they were incredible."
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.