CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Despite accomplishing a great deal in his baseball life as a player and manager, Terry Francona believes the proudest moment of his professional career had nothing to do with the game between the lines.
And it also had nothing to do with feeling good about himself.
Instead, it had everything to do with the actions of the people he works with every single day and the good they hope to create.
Earlier this week, Francona announced the formation of the Larry Doby Youth Fund, set up to work with youth-focused community organizations of the Cleveland Foundation to provide educational assistance and resources to help curb youth violence.
The fund itself was named after former Indians outfielder Larry Doby, the first African-American player to sign and play for an American League club in 1947. Doby certainly battled many hardships as he helped break down baseball’s ridiculous color barrier.
In addition to creating the fund, the Cleveland Indians — including Francona, the players, the coaching staff, the front office and Indians Owner Paul Dolan and Minority Owner John Sherman — donated a total of $1 million dollars to the newly formed initiative.
“Just the way that the guys rallied together and did it, man, that’s not an easy thing to do,” Francona said. “And it’s not my place to tell guys how to spend their money. I don’t think that’s fair. I told them, ‘Hey, there’s no wrong here.’ I just said I think we’re in a position where we can do some good, and they were incredible. I mean incredible. It was probably the proudest moment I’ve ever had.”
The Larry Doby Youth Fund began as an idea, one that came to Francona as the Indians traveled across the country and news of violence and uncertain safety became more and more prevalent in recent months.
He also spent time talking to outfielders Coco Crisp and Rajai Davis, getting their perspective on the state of the nation and the challenges minorities may face or the concerns they might have.
“Watching things happen, like [the protesting of] national anthems, and then we went to Chicago and I was talking to some policemen there that I know,” Francona explained. “And I just started to think about some things.. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I talked to a couple of the guys, couple of the players. And they were like, ‘That’s pretty cool.’
“Then we got our entire team together, because that was the only way it was going to work.”
The entire idea of the fund is to help underserved children who face impossible issues in their every day life. Francona feels like it’s time to give those kids a chance.
“These kids in the inner city, they have no chance,” Francona said. “How are they supposed to be the next generation when they’re not getting an education? Or they’re either scared to get an education or they go to school and they’re afraid they’re going to get shot? Somebody has to start caring about them. I don’t understand it.
“Maybe it was talking to policemen in Chicago, maybe it was a combination of a lot of things. It has to get better if we’re going to get better.”
And Francona was also pleased to keep overhead cost from getting in the way of sending the necessary help to those in need.
“Mr. Dolan was incredibly helpful,” Francona said. “We’re just trying to do something nice. And it’ll go directly to kids or some organizations, and Paul already had some ideas. And then the committee will kind of OK it.
“It’ll be five guys that are a cross-section to keep everybody happy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s small. But it’s something.”
Fans are welcome to make a donation by November 2 to the The Larry Doby Youth Fund by visiting the website or texting CLEVE to 27722 to donate $5 by November 2, 2016.