NEW YORK -- For some kids, the end of summer brings excitement, with the promise of shopping trips for new clothes and school supplies just around the corner. But for others, the back-to-school advertisements are just a tease of what they wish to have but simply cannot afford.Enter CC and
NEW YORK -- For some kids, the end of summer brings excitement, with the promise of shopping trips for new clothes and school supplies just around the corner. But for others, the back-to-school advertisements are just a tease of what they wish to have but simply cannot afford.
Enter CC and Amber Sabathia.
Nine years ago, the Yankees' 2018 Roberto Clemente Award nominee and his wife founded the PitCCh In Foundation, which aims to enrich the lives of inner-city youth by raising their self-esteem with educational and athletic activities. On Friday, the foundation hosted a "Welcome Back to School" assembly and backpack giveaway at Public School 71 in the Bronx.
On the auditorium stage sat nearly 2,000 backpacks filled with pencils, erasers, markers, crayons, hand sanitizer and other supplies, ready to be handed out to the students. As the foundation approaches its 10-year anniversary, it has already given away 45,000 backpacks to children in the tri-state area and Northern California.
"I got all kind of tingles," Amber said. "It's amazing knowing that we've touched lives, because I feel like every one of these backpacks touches a child's life. They take it home and it can push them to work a little bit harder in school. It gives them that motivation to do their homework because they have a pencil and an eraser at home -- no big deal. So to touch 45,000 children's lives is amazing."
The idea for this event came from Sabathia's mother. Growing up, the Yankees pitcher was himself a child whose family could not afford everything he needed to go back to school. Years later, his mother wanted to make sure other families did not have the same experience.
"CC's mom started the backpack [giveaway] because she said back-to-school was one of her difficult times, and being able to afford school clothes and school supplies [was hard]," Amber said. "She said something always went left. CC wouldn't get a pair of shoes for back to school. So when we started programming, she was like, 'I want to do something to start the kids' years off right.' So this is her baby and it's expanded beyond our dreams."
After a long road trip and a giveaway on the West Coast, Amber gave her husband Friday morning off so he could take their kids to school. Although Sabathia missed his first backpack event, the party continued without him. Along with Amber, teammates Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius assisted in the giveaway, serving as ambassadors for the PitCCh In Foundation.
"This year we realized that CC may be possibly retiring soon, but the foundation will not," Amber said. "So we started at the beginning of the year looking for different ambassadors that we really wanted to bring in to be a part of the foundation -- [people] we knew would want to give back as well just as much as CC does, on and off the field. He said the first two were Aaron and Didi."
The DJ played popular hits for the students to sing and dance to, but the crowd was quickly quieted when Amber took the microphone to announce Hicks and Gregorius as the special guests. The two Yankees then took part in the chants and cheers, watched the kids dance and asked the crowd questions before handing out a backpack to each child in attendance.
"It's kind of awesome, especially when you're here and you can see the kids and how excited they are during the whole event," Hicks said. "It's cool to help out with that and give back and give them the utensils to change the world in the future."
In addition to the youth backpack programs, Sabathia's foundation also consists of All-Star baseball clinics and field renovations. The left-hander was recognized for his work with the Yankees' nomination for the 2018 Roberto Clemente Award, which is presented annually to the player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Voting for the award will close next week.
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"I think it's amazing what they're doing," Hicks said. "It's awesome to see a teammate of mine to do such good in the community."
Gregorius not only served as an ambassador of the Sabathias' foundation, but he also used the event as one of his signature #DIDIsDEEDs. The shortstop launched his charitable initiative in 2017 to spread good fortune across the country to unsuspecting patrons.
"It's really important," Gregorius said of giving back to the children in the community. "All we do is baseball, that's what people see, but people don't see what we do besides baseball. Some of these events are the best things we can do to show our appreciation."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.