Clemente Award nominee Tate always looking to give back

September 21st, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The story, in Johannes Boyd's eyes, is accurate as told. He and his cousin, Orioles relief pitcher , were riding their bikes around West Baltimore in 2020, as they often did, and stumbled across a youth baseball team practicing in Carroll Park. Tate, unprompted, got off his bike and approached the team's coach.

The moment, in Boyd's eyes, was the inciting point. Tate has long wanted to form a relationship with young players in the city, to become a mentor through both baseball and life, and this was an opportunity.

"Baseball is a vehicle by which we can teach a lot of life lessons," Boyd says now.

In the two years since, Tate and Boyd have founded a non-profit, Baseball Academia, that focuses on creating avenues into baseball for those who haven't had the full opportunities presented to them. Over the course of the 2022 season, the organization has reached over 150 kids, a large handful welcomed to Camden Yards before games, where Tate meets them along the first-base line.

For moments like a chance interaction in a park just a couple miles from Camden Yards, for more moments like those in Tate's understated time in Baltimore, and for the work he's done with Baseball Academia, he was the clear choice as the Orioles' nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award.

"It's a big recognition to be compared to somebody like Roberto Clemente -- model citizen, model ballplayer," Tate said. "It's an honor."

Tate's desire to get involved stems to his roots. He is a product of the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. There, he learned the value of teamwork, of how important it is to extend access into baseball to those the sport may be missing.

He learned the value of charity -- and of simply attending a baseball game -- from his family. Tate and Boyd's grandfather, Earl Anthony Boyd Sr., was an usher at Dodger Stadium. The chances he had to scour tickets for the 17 members of his family are remembered fondly by his grandsons, a fiber of their fuel in creating the chances for others

"I just had all sorts of opportunities presented to me," Tate said. "My mission really is to just give other kids that same type of opportunity that I was given, because I think that shaped my life for the better."

"He's constantly trying to find ways to level up," said Boyd, who moved from California to Baltimore for the sole reason of helping his cousin launch their non-profit, "and not just leveling up himself, but in regards to this, leveling up the game of baseball, its reach and what things kids have access to."

Tate's work with Baltimore youth is what earned his Clemente nomination, but the understated moments that are less spoken about make him a perfect candidate in the eyes of his teammates.

Earlier this year, outfielder Austin Hays and his wife, Samantha, were holding a fundraising drive in support of mental health causes to honor one of their loved ones who died by suicide. Hays was asking teammates for donations in the form of cleats, bats or other game memorabilia that could benefit the drive.

Tate, meticulous about his cleats and gloves, told Hays he didn't have anything to donate. Hays completely understood. About 10 minutes later, Tate, unpromoted, came back with a check that helped push the drive over $12,000.

"That just speaks to the type of person he is and how much he cares about helping others," Hays said. "It's well deserved for him to be nominated."

The manner in which Tate was made aware of his nomination was all the more meaningful. Hosting a group of kids before an August home game, manager Brandon Hyde came out of the dugout to meet Tate and the group. Slowly, kids in the back row pulled out orange and black cue cards:

"Congrats Dillon! Roberto Clemente Award nominee."

Tate, not one to seek out the spotlight, was shell-shocked.

"We're really excited for him and proud of him for everything he's doing in the community," Hyde would say later.

Tate has kept loose tabs with that Carroll Park Baseball group, the coach and his son coming out to a game at Camden Yards over the past couple years. That group was the first Tate's message reached, and they helped connect him with others around the city, where Baseball Academia has flourished.

He was given different bouts of guidance during his come-up. Now it's time to pay it forward.

"If anything, I'll try to do somewhat of the same, a fraction of the same," Tate said. "Even if it's a fraction, it's a step in the right direction."