The Lake County Captains, the Class A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, is doing more for the region than helping to develop future major-league players.
Through its nonprofit partner, Captains Charities Inc., the Captains are giving back to the communities that surround Classic Park in multiple ways, says Jen Yorko, the team’s assistant general manager.
“Captains Charities donates to numerous local charities ranging from the United Way of Lake County and the Lake Health Foundation to local humane societies, senior centers and youth sports teams,” Yorko says. “Most recently, we’ve been a partner in the Miracle League of Lake County project.”
The Miracle League is a nationwide program with over 270 fields across the country. The goal is to provide opportunities for children with physical and intellectual disabilities to play baseball and be part of a team.
Locally, the plan is to construct a Miracle League baseball field and a large, inclusive playground that will be accessible to kids of all abilities. The field would be built adjacent to Classic Park at the corner of Route 91 and Vine Street in Eastlake.
Among the partners in the initiative are the Lake County Board of DD/Deepwood and Deepwood Foundation, which provide assistance to families of children and adults with developmental disabilities.
A fundraiser for the project is planned for April 20 at NOAH’s of Mentor, 8200 Norton Parkway, in Mentor.
Time to give back
Yorko credits the Captains’ owners and management team for the organization’s commitment to philanthropy.
“It’s refreshing to work for an ownership group that loves the community and wants to give back,” Yorko says. “Our impact is important because it reaches people in a number of ways — literacy, recreation, food bank donations, making stockings for local senior centers.”
Here are a few examples of other events and fundraisers put on through Captains Charities each year:
■ The Captains Reading Program — This is an initiative that promotes the value of literacy and reading comprehension inside and outside the classroom for traditional and nontraditional schools, kindergarten through eighth grade. Teachers are encouraged to decorate classrooms and bulletin boards with baseball themes to inspire participation in the program. When the program is successfully completed, students and teachers receive complimentary tickets to a Captains home game. More than 130 schools participated in the 2016 Captains Reading Program, including nearly 35,000 students and more than 2,000 teachers.
■ Captains Grand Slam 5K — More than 1,000 runners took part in last year’s race that begins and ends at Classic Park.
■ Ticket FUNdraiser Program — This is an opportunity for nonprofit organizations to sell tickets and keep a portion of the proceeds from each ticket sold to be put toward whatever cause it supports.
Creating new memories
Prior to coming to the Cleveland area in 2003, the club was based in Columbus, Georgia, and was known as the Columbus RedStixx. In 2010, the Captains finished the season as champions of the Midwest League.
“Sometimes things get crazy with the balance of our baseball season,” Yorko says. “It’s about putting one step forward and making things better for those around us.”
Yorko grew up in Northeast Ohio and considers herself fortunate to have a job that enables her to feed her passion for both baseball and the community.
“I’ve worked with a fun, goal-oriented front office team each year I’ve been here,” she says. “That’s the most exciting part; planning what’s next to come for our fans. This job is fast-paced, high energy and constantly changing. There’s always something new to learn and a new project to take on.”
She gives credit to those outside the Captains organization for also playing a key role in enabling the many programs that support Captains Charities.
“Our local business partners, event participants and staff volunteers are the reasons why we are able to continue doing all of our great community partnerships each year,” Yorko says. “They make our events fun and something that people look forward to each year.” ●
How to reach: Lake County Captains, (440) 975-8085 or www.captainsbaseball.com