DENVER -- The mark that Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa has left on youth and scholastic baseball in the Denver area is small in physical size only.
You'd have to look closely at the jerseys for the high school and youth teams who are beneficiaries of the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs, but his mark is there. "Jorge De La Rosa 29."
That's because De La Rosa is funding the entire RBI program for 25 baseball teams and 12 softball teams. His contribution provides not only uniforms, but umpire fees, coach stipends, equipment and balls for the teams the Rockies sponsor in Adams, Aurora, Denver, Jefferson and Weld Counties in Colorado. The program is run through a working relationship between the Rockies and Denver Public Schools, as well as school systems in surrounding communities.
The quiet gesture is being celebrated as the Rockies and Major League Baseball join the world in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on Sunday. The theme of the 2013 celebration is "Hispanics: Serving Our Nation with Pride and Honor."
"The team asked me if I could help them and I said yes," De La Rosa said. "And I did. It's the only way I can pay [the fans] back for all the support they gave me throughout my career. It's fun to help them. … They did a great job all season. That's the only way we can back them back for what they've always done for us."
De La Rosa, a native of Mexico, noticed the large number of young students and fans -- many of whom are Hispanic -- who could benefit from the lessons a quality baseball program can bring. He was more than happy to provide service, in his own way, when the Rockies approached him about helping the RBI program. By having RBI funded by one player, the Rockies can take money originally budgeted for that program and increase contributions to other community efforts.
"It's nice to try to help those people who need all that stuff," De La Rosa said. "I'm so glad to be able to do that. I think it was good money well spent. … I want to be more involved."
This season, after missing most of the past two years because of a left elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery, De La Rosa has matched his career high with 16 wins.
After arriving in Colorado in 2008, De La Rosa made it a goal to succeed at Coors Field, where so many others haven't. One of the reasons was the strong support he has received from Denver's vibrant Spanish-speaking communities.
"It's huge -- in Denver there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people," De La Rosa said. "They come out to the park to support the team. Like I said, it's the only way I can pay them back for all the support they give us."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com.