Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa Bay, Chicago, Mesa, Arizona or Hazleton, Pennsylvania. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
Matt Sauvage | Buddies Through Baseball
As he joined the millions of Cubs fans celebrating the team’s first World championship in 108 years, Matt Sauvage’s mind began churning.
So many fans, so many similar stories covering decades of enduring Cubs love, but he wondered, given the regional base of the team and the challenges of obtaining tickets and navigating a trip to Clark and Addison, how many fans were actually able to see a game at Wrigley Field?
A career shift and a move to Chicago permitted him to take up a residence just a ten-minute walk from Wrigley.
Soon a plan began to emerge. And why wouldn’t it? It’s something he had plenty of experience with on a much larger stage.
As in Washington, D.C.
Sauvage left Iowa upon his high school graduation for the nation’s capital where he attended George Washington University and caught the political bug.
He earned his degree in International Affairs and History and immediately went to work for various political committees and organizations in a public relations capacity.
He then left D.C, to manage a Congressional campaigns in Alabama and Iowa. “Working on those (campaigns) is about building up an organization, a structure, creating a message that resonates, fundraising and working toward a goal,” says Sauvage. “You start with nothing and build.”
It was at that point, the twenty-something communications strategist decided to make a switch to the Windy City. “It was part career change and part moving to a new city,” says Sauvage. “It didn’t hurt that the Cubs were doing well. After the Dexter Fowler signing during Spring Training, I knew this team was special and I had to be there for it. I tell everyone that I was the good luck charm since they won the year I moved!”
He was open-minded about a new profession but software sales was a natural fit. He also wanted to do something that would connect him with the Cubs and take advantage of his proximity to Wrigley.
“It was very obvious that I was in an extremely easy position to attend games,” said Sauvage. “Anybody who has been to Wrigley knows that it is difficult to get there because they play in a neighborhood and traffic is rough. Tickets are also expensive especially on the weekend when people are most likely to go. But I could go midweek, no problem, for $40-$50 and sit in the bleachers. Compare that to the weekend games when sometimes the cheapest seats in the 500 level can be $100.
“The idea of doing something just kind of popped up. I started bouncing around the thought of getting more involved in the community and sharing the joy of Wrigley Field with those who don’t have the opportunity.
It went from Sauvage searching for a way to send a parent and child to a game to something deeper: a mentorship program. “I know there is value in experiencing Wrigley Field and teaching the lessons from the game of baseball. Being able to develop a relationship with a child in need and helping them along with other aspects of their life is even more meaningful,” he says.
“We researched everything, got a legal team together, became a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit and reached out to some organizations to get an idea of how we should start the project,” he recalled.
Buddies Through Baseball was born. It’s a one-on-one program where mentor and mentee participate in two events each month during the baseball season (April through September). The first activity is a tutoring session where the mentor helps the child with a subject in school and the other is attending a Cubs game together. The organization reinforces the personal values of friendship, kindness and appreciation or community along with the values exemplified from the game of baseball including teamwork, perseverance and humility.
In 2017, they started a pilot program mentoring two students from a local Chicago school.
Their goal this year is to develop the program and grow to mentor five children. Sauvage spent the past cold winter recruiting mentors and reaching out to additional schools.
“Every time I walk through the gates at Wrigley, it feels like my first game. Anything I can do to share that joy with someone who doesn’t have that opportunity is special. The child that I mentored last year, we took him to his first Cubs game. We are very proud of that and it’s the reason we got started.”
– Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation
To find out more or get involved check out BuddiesThroughBaseball.org.