Just as they did exactly one year ago tonight, the Chicago Cubs will take on the Cleveland Indians in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series on the main television in our house. Having already watched the collectors'-edition DVDs of the pennant-clinching Game 6 of the 2016 National League championship series, and the first six games of the 2016 World Series, my wife and I are feeling pretty good about the Cubs' chances.
Nothing surpasses last year's thrilling season and that moment when Cubs' first baseman Anthony Rizzo caught third baseman Kris Bryant's throw for the final out and tucked the ball in his back pocket. But we Cubs fans still have lots to celebrate.
"What I hope you could do is thank the entire team, not just for last year, but for a great season this year," emails Bernice Roome, an 81-year-old Cubs fan from Elgin, whose husband, David, died a couple of years before the Cubs became World Champions. "What these Cubs do off the field is as impressive -- perhaps more so. Anthony Rizzo's Roberto Clemente Award exemplifies what they are all about. It is not something he competed for. It is something he earned by doing good."
Indeed. The Clemente Award goes to the player who best represents baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, on and off the field. Rizzo and his Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation gave more than $4 million to Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, and another $650,000 to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Health System.
Rizzo visits hospitals, writes personal notes to sick kids and donates his own money and time. "As a cancer survivor, I know the challenges families face, watching loved ones fight this disease," Rizzo says. "I want to give them hope there is life after cancer. I encourage families to continue to 'Stay Strong and Dream Big.'"
But the Cubs' good deeds don't stop with Rizzo.
"Cubs players have participated in more than 100 community engagements," notes Alyson Cohen, a public relations coordinator for the Cubs.
Cubs Wives raised more than $70,000 for Cubs Charities this year. In 2016, the Cubs, Cubs Charities and Cubs Care supported charitable grants and donations of nearly $4 million and expect to fundraise more than $6 million in 2017. The Cubs' All-Star Grant Challenge in 2017 raised $450,000 for schools in the Lakeview neighborhood near Wrigley Field.
Manager Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation has raised more than $300,000 for homeless shelters in Chicago and his hometown of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, this year. Slugger Kyle Schwarber's Neighborhood Heroes campaign, which honors veterans and first responders, raised $280,000 with its inaugural block party. Outfielder Albert Almora Jr.'s Intentional Walk charity raises awareness for homeless or sheltered animals through PAWS Chicago. Pitcher Jon Lester's Never Quit (NVRQT) campaign through the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation raised $600,000.
Relief pitcher Brian Duensing and his foundation also support families battling cancer or other serious illnesses. The Willson Contreras Foundation started by the Cubs catcher supports homeless veterans. Through its Hot Stove Cool Music concerts, Cubs President Theo Epstein's Foundation To Be Named Later has raised more than $1.1 million this year for Peter Gammons College Scholarships and partners with nonprofits that benefit urban youths and families concentrating on leadership, education and healthy development.
Other players donate to these charities and visit hospitals and veterans, and work to continue the Cubs' winning ways off the field. Cubs fans will be able to cheer this team's efforts all year.
And, yes, we can do that a year from now even if we are watching the Cubs play in Game 7 of the 2018 World Series.