NEW YORK -- More than 1,100 Goldman Sachs employees traded in their two-piece suits and knee-length skirts for casual shirts and athletic shorts on Friday as they prepared for the workday. But instead of flashing their identification badges at the door of their lower Manhattan headquarters, these employees turned the corner at the next street over and walked inside the gates of the Battery Park City Ball Fields.
For the fourth consecutive year, they were set to play in the Goldman Sachs-DREAM Wiffle Ball Tournament, supported by MLB, with the goals of letting off some steam, doing some team building and having some fun with a group of high school kids from a charity that serves more than 2,500 boys and girls in East Harlem, the South Bronx and Newark, N.J.
When Richard Berlin, the executive director of DREAM, and Brian Levine, a managing director at Goldman Sachs, began this partnership in 2015, neither could have foreseen how much it would grow. At the outset, they estimated that there would be about 100 participants. That first year, 500 GS employees signed up. Now, that figure has more than doubled, and the employees talk about it so much that involvement is actually “at max capacity,” according to Levine.
“[We] started talking about something that would go beyond fundraising and really engage our kids with Goldman Sachs employees,” Berlin said. “[It’s] really a testament to Brian’s leadership in the firm and his deep belief and connection to DREAM. New York is an incredible charitable landscape, but all these great charities are often fighting for mindshare, and to be able to be connected in such an organic but deep and broad way with what is the leading financial services firm in the world is really extraordinary.”
Friday’s tournament was particularly special for the GS employees and the DREAM kids, because two special guests dropped by for a visit: Yankees players Cameron Maybin and Domingo German.
Ahead of the Yankees’ series against the Red Sox, the pair didn’t just sit back and watch. They hopped into some of the games, taking swings and tossing balls along with the employees. Between sessions, they did the same with the kids, throwing BP and posing for selfies. One of the girls took a video, putting her arm around Maybin and yelling, “Bye Boston!” into the camera.
Maybin, who has a foundation called The Maybin Mission that seeks to enrich inner-city youth, has teamed up with DREAM for the past few years. Friday was just another opportunity to show his support for their work in the community.
“As I continue to get deeper in my professional career, you wanna use this platform for the better,” Maybin said. “Baseball is an amazing game, but the platform we’re able to have, I think, is even more amazing. So to come out here and to see the energy, see the laughter, see the smiles on these kids’ faces -- that’s what it’s all about for me. How can we uplift and inspire?”
German echoed that sentiment through a translator.
“Even if you’re busy, you have to come out in times like this to support kids and support their dreams," he said. "It’s a regular day for [me]. [I’m] very happy for them to have the experience, to say that they were with Domingo and he was with them.”
The duo aren’t the only MLB players to have appeared at the tournament over the years. Levine said that the list includes former Yankee Mickey Rivers, former Met John Franco and Mark Teixeira, who is on the board of DREAM and made quite an impression during one of his visits: “I saw him strike out the president of our firm a couple years ago when we did this -- that was enjoyable.”
This year's tournament was structured to account for the increase in participation, and it was run by 18 kids from DREAM. The turf fields were divided into eight baseball diamonds, and the GS employees were divided into more than 100 teams to play 7-on-7 games simultaneously in hour-long sessions. The DREAM kids kept score and acted as referees, sounding a horn to signal the time to switch sides as the employees sought to tally as many points as possible.
The DREAM kids then set up a single-elimination playoff round, taking the 10 teams with the best records from each session, calculating run differential for any tiebreakers and matching them up based on seeding -- leading to a championship game to decide the winner.
“The kids come out here and do a great job putting on the tournament,” Levine said. “It’s a machine the way they run this, and by the time you get to the playoffs around 4 o’clock, the teams are really good, it’s actually entertaining to watch and it’s fun. We’ll usually take the kids inside, show them the trading floors. Overall, it’s just a winning situation for everyone.”
Jaret Perez, a 21-year-old DREAM staff member, is responsible for overseeing that process as the leader of the program’s summer camp. He has grown up with the organization from the age of 13, and his older brothers, now in their late 20s, were also once part of the program.
Perez has had a front-row seat to the tournament for the past four years, and he is always particularly struck by the passion the GS employees bring to the event.
“Their enthusiasm is one of the biggest things that they have,” Perez said. “They’re always so pumped to get going. Some of them that may have never even played Wiffle ball, they’re very excited to be out here. And once they get going, they’re going. They’re high-energy. Later into the day, the tension gets really high, but it’s all for fun.”
For Levine, Friday marked his final tournament, as he celebrated 25 years with the company and announced his retirement. For Berlin, the mission continues, and he is optimistic about the future.
“Top to bottom, DREAM has a long and healthy relationship with Goldman Sachs, from the C-Suite down to internship opportunities for our own kids,” Berlin said. “To have 1,000 employees here living the value of teamwork, which is critical to both Goldman and DREAM’s mission, is really powerful. [It’s] really the platform and the foundation on which this relationship is built.”