Rick Vaughn has spent a lifetime around baseball storytelling, a good part of it with the Tampa Rays. These days he is still around the game and all that it entails but in a different role, as Executive Director of Respect 90, the fast growing Not For Profit Foundation created by Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon and his wife Jaye. Vaughn has helped continue to grow the organization and continue to grow in a new role that is all about community, less about wins and losses on the diamond.
How is it going and where can it go? We asked Rick a for an update.
What was the genesis for Joe Maddon doing his own charity when he was with you at the Rays?
While he was with the Rays, Joe and his wife Jaye were involved with homelessness and pediatric cancer research in Tampa and his Hazleton Integration Project in his Pennsylvania hometown. When he arrived in Chicago he added inner city boxing clubs, Misericordia Home and other non profits. And with the Cubs spring training in Mesa we added Cardon Children’s Medical Center. It then became time to put them all under an umbrella and thus Respect 90 was born.
Did things change much when he left for the Cubs?
As expected, the biggest change for Joe was the platform Chicago provided for our efforts. Partnering with Cubs Charities was huge. Few teams are connected to their communities like the Cubs.
How involved can a manager be in the day to day of such a program?
Joe is all in when it comes to everything including the foundation. He is very interested in helping his communities. Of course his time during the season is limited. But his mind never stops. He brings up a new idea every week. In the off-season, he will take a few weeks to wind down and then he is on the go doing what he can to benefit our community partners.
You have a daily role with the charity now, what does that entail?
In general terms, I carry out the wishes of Joe and Jaye. I keep them updated on developments and opportunities about twice a week and try to keep as much off Joe’s plate as I can. Since we are still relatively new (we have been a 501(c)3 for about 12 months) a lot of my time is spent on building relationships between other foundations and non profits and determining ways we can work together. Joe and I have have developed a great trust over the past dozen years that has made my job easier. And, of course, discovering ways to fundraise while being respectful of Joe’s time.
What are some of the best practices foundations sometimes miss when storytelling?
Well, I should say that I am a relative newcomer to this field and am grateful to my peers who have been welcoming and have embodied the idea that we are all just trying to do the most good. I’ve learned a lot from them. We work with numerous smaller non profits and they are all doing such meaningful work and are so dedicated to it, that they often don’t have the resources to tell their story. We’ve been able to help with that in some cases, but having a communications person is often a luxury for the smaller non profits. Somehow, I think they need to find a way to add that piece.
Where and how can the charity grow its focus going forward?
With our nation’s current focus on integration and immigration, we feel there is a great growth opportunity for our Hazleton Integration Project, specifically our Hazleton One Center which is a multi cultural center offering multiple activities for Anglo and Hispanic youth and adults. We are now exploring ways to partner with our nation’s universities who feel a responsibility to utilize their resources to help tackle this issue facing our nation and at the same time enrich their communities.
Does onfield success have a real impact?
While there are fewer brands stronger than the Cubs, on field success certainly helps. In addition to greater exposure opportunities for the foundation and/or our partners, winning. Postseason baseball has no doubt helped our fundraising. This season, we have launched “Put the Art Back in the Game,” a campaign which reflects Joe’s messaging to his players who he often refers to as artists. Via Maddonart.com and Korked Chicago we are offering unique art and apparel featuring Joe’s messages to his players with all proceeds going to the foundation. Without Joe’s success that wouldn’t be possible.
How can or do brands get involved? Any best practices you have seen?
Of course we are always looking for mutually beneficial partnerships. The Cubs and Joe Maddon are powerful allies. Brands with common vision can combine to reach some lofty goals. We recently became aware of a Miracle League field for kids with disabilities in St Petersburg that had become unsafe causing them to miss a season. We wanted to help, but lacked experience with this type of project and it was a hefty sum for a new foundation. We contacted Steve Salem with the Cal Ripken Sr Foundation – who build new youth fields as their mission- and we partnered to build a new field for those kids.
What’s been the biggest change in this phase of your career even though this latest endeavor is still around baseball?
There are many commonalities, it’s all about relationship building but it’s nice only worrying about Joe and not 25 players! I love that this job allows me to devote 100% of my time to helping people who are deserving. And, it also gives me more personal flexibility than a 162-game major league schedule allows.
In all your time in baseball are there elements of the business that did not change?
Media access to the players has remained pretty much the same since I started with the Orioles in 1985 and that’s a real plus because it is the most liberal policy of any sport and allows the media to cover the daily soap-opera-like sport that baseball is. Not sure how much longer it is going to stay though.
Game day give away items seem to be just as important to fans now as they were then. No matter the era, people always get excited about free stuff.
What a the biggest change that you would like to see going forward for the business?
I would like empathy make a return to the game. We have gotten away from that practice. I think the analytics used both on and off the field are very useful at times, but there needs to be balance between the analytics and what Joe calls the heartbeat, both on the field and in the front office. There are some teams that still operate that way at least on the business side: the Phillies under Dave Montgomery come to mind.
Click here to view the original article on JoeFavorito.com