Did you ever think when you were growing up that one day your self-sacrifice would make a positive difference in the lives of others? Oftentimes, the heroes are the ones that go under the radar without the need of notoriety or recognition. But fortunately, these extraordinary men and leaders will finally have their own night where we will shine a spotlight and celebrate their many achievements in front of community supporters, athletes, donors and high profile people of New York.
Hoffman’s vision for the Manhattan Youth Baseball (MYB) program came out of the belief that children have more fun when they know how to play. With a background in Early Childhood Education, Finance and a passion for giving back, he created and fostered an environment, which focuses on the positive aspects of physical activity, social interaction and baseball fundamentals, while teaching sportsmanship, backed by a high moral code. Beyond just winning, students learn core values and integral life lessons that are engrained through the decision making process of baseball. Furthermore, Hoffman’s dream of founding and operating a nonprofit organization in order to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate athletes, came to fruition when he started Manhattan Youth Baseball. MYB is a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization dedicated to providing excellent baseball education and academic educational opportunities for New York City since 1990 for families who cannot afford the programs provided. In fact, this year is a monumental anniversary for the organization as they celebrate 25 years of service under the guidance of Hoffman and his board members.
To ensure elementary inner-city students stay on the right path for success, Hoffman designed Grades 2 Play (G2P), a scholarship program under Manhattan Youth Baseball, helping underprivileged children excel academically through private school funding. G2P offers an array of services that include: quality education, tutors, access to role models, facilities, coaches, after school programs and mentorship support, among many other vital services that they could not access on their own. To date, this applies to students from the East Harlem and Mount Vernon School communities who cannot afford the opportunity to play baseball to do so in a competitive and instructional environment and will be expanding their outreach in the near future.
Amongst great company, is another extraordinary humanitarian, Joe Daniels, President & CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, who oversees direct operations, planning, construction and development for one of the nation’s most historic monuments. The 9/11 Memorial serves as the country’s principal institution concerned with exploring the history of 9/11, documenting the impact of those events and exploring the continued implications. This pillar of freedom honors the 2,983 people who were killed in the attacks of September 11. Through Daniels’ extraordinary efforts and commitment, he’s led the foundation to reach many milestones, including a fundraising campaign exceeding $450 million. Not only has he played a pivotal role in helping us commemorate and remember the names, faces and lives of the men, women and children who were killed, but whose underlying support honors the sacrifices of first responders and enshrines the spirit of unity that emerged in the aftermath of 9/11.
And lastly, we have a man who wears many hats as a father of three and Sports Analyst for SNY, who provides sports insight for shows such as: ESPN, Fox Business Varney and Co., Hannity, ABC World News and CBS Sports Radio, to name a few. In addition to these vast accomplishments, Erik Coleman enjoys being actively involved in his community as part of the “My Brother’s Keeper” Mentorship Program where he speaks to students at the Yes We Can Community Center in Westbury, NY, the initiative launched by President Obama to address persistent opportunity faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential. Moreover, he plans on rolling out a youth football camp this summer in Long Island to teach the sport he loves dearly and more importantly, help kids remain out of trouble, while staying fit and healthy.
We were fortunate to catch up with Hoffman, Daniels and Coleman, three altruistic and selfless individuals whose life mission is to make a positive impact in their respective communities. They are joining forces at Manhattan Youth Baseball Presents Grades 2 Play Celebrity Charity Casino Night on Thursday, April 7, 2016, at Ben & Jack’s Steak House located at 255 – Fifth Avenue from 6:30pm- 10:30pm. Daniels will be honored with the “Patron of NYC Award,” presented by Howard W. Lutnick, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P along with NFL Veteran & SNY Analyst, Erik Coleman, who will be honored with the “Excellence in Sports & Philanthropy Award,” which will be presented by Andrew J. Perel, Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP and Chairman of the Board, MYB.
What does receiving the Patron of NYC Award mean to you?
Joe: It’s a great honor to be recognized by Manhattan Youth Baseball. All across the city, communities are working to prepare our children for the future and Manhattan Youth Baseball is making real strides through the Grades 2 Play program toward providing the best opportunities possible for kids to get the education they need through an activity they love.
What does receiving the Excellence in Sports & Philanthropy Award mean to you?
Erik: It means a lot to be recognized for my work. As a professional athlete, you are given such a big platform and I feel it is important to use that platform for the betterment of the world. Through my own experiences, I learned to step outside my own life, whether to lend a helping-hand or give back in some capacity. As such, I enjoy working with children, which means so much because their minds are highly influenced and susceptible by their own surroundings. And since I didn’t necessarily have the best upbringing, I want to be a mentor for them.
What about Joe and Erik’s impressive portfolio made them the perfect choice and honorees for these distinguished awards?
Bobby: What makes them the perfect choice as honorees for these distinguished awards is in the greatness that Joe and Erik exemplify, from walking the walk, enlisting action to making things happen for kids. And they do it because it’s their life passion.
Having endured one of the worst tragedies ever to come across our nation, what does the 9/11 Memorial mean to you, especially as a resident of the Big Apple?
Joe: The 9/11 attacks exhibited the worst of humanity, but in the response during the immediate aftermath and for months following that terrible day, we saw our city, our country and our world come together with tremendous compassion. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum is a vital place for educating future generations about our capacity for goodness and ability to come together in the face of terror and danger. This place is essential to help us and our children remember what happened here and how we can react positively in unthinkable circumstances.
Can you share one of your greatest moments as a professional athlete?
Erik: One of my greatest moments was being drafted to play in the NFL, given the fact of how many other athletes are competing for the same job. There are so many athletes in the world that would give anything for the opportunity to play professionally, but that was just the start. The experience of playing 9 consecutive seasons in the NFL was by far one of my greatest accomplishments.
How did the inception of Manhattan Youth Baseball come about?
Bobby: In 1990, there was a need for baseball on the upper eastside and instead of complaining about it, I decided to create a program for my then 5 year old son and his friends. The following year, some people who had younger children asked to join and the momentum started to build and just continued. Five years later, there are roughly 600 kids enrolled from K-5th grade and we’ve been going strong ever since.
Despite your differing roles in helping the youth and providing an institution built on freedom, there are a lot of parallels of your love for giving back. What inspired you to build these extraordinary organizations?
Bobby: I give credit to my Mother as my source of inspiration, who taught me and my siblings to be good people and to lend a helping-hand when needed. I don’t really look at it as giving back per se, but reaching out to my community members and their children have instilled and empowered me that we are in this together and can overcome life’s greatest obstacles to make it better. Hence, the idea of teamwork.
Joe: The Memorial was a place that absolutely had to be built in response to the terror attacks nearly fifteen years ago. The deaths of nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children had to be remembered not just because of the overwhelming tragedy, but because these were individuals like you and me. Fathers, sons, wives and daughters; each of their unique lives and personal histories had to be preserved. The Museum was built in order to educate the public on the complete, fact-based portrayal of the events of the day, explore how those events happened and examine the response to the attacks and what we can learn from the tragedy. It’s tremendously important for us to look at each of these aspects in order to ensure that something like this can never happen again.
If you could highlight one of your vast accomplishments, what would it be? And more importantly, what is the significance behind it?
Bobby: I have a young man who came through the Grades 2 Play program. He entered when he was in 4th grade and at that time, his father was just incarcerated for dealing drugs and his older brother took over the family business while leading a local gang. Despite of the barriers against him, at only 10 years of age, he made his way to practice and even to the games by himself. We would sit and talk about all kinds of things, his opportunities and above all, his future. He bit my apple and applied himself and got into a descent high school and when he turned 16, he rejected any offers from gangs to join.
Through his newfound transformation, the father came to talk to me and thanked me for showing his son a different path. We worked together and with his baseball skills, he was able to go to a prep school out of state and is now ready to graduate from college. This was a moment I’ll never forget and made me realize that this organization can continue to help those who are in a similar situation. And my only hope is that the returning students will continue to pay it forward by helping others.
Erik: Of course being successful in the NFL and playing 9 years is a major accomplishment, but marrying the woman of my dreams and being a father to three amazing children is what drives me on a daily basis. I’m able to teach them the values that are instilled in me and they get to see the work that I do in the community.
Joe: Opening the Memorial on the tenth anniversary of the attacks was a lot of hard work by so many men and women behind the scenes, but it had to be done. Never before had a Memorial of this magnitude been completed in such a short period of time, but the whole world was focused on the World Trade Center site on that anniversary and it was our main priority to have the Memorial completed in time for the families of those who were killed to observe that important day at a completed Memorial. I am so proud of my team for everything they did to open according to that deadline.
How do you feel your contributions have added to the greater impact of society?
Bobby: I work on a very low level working directly with teachers, principals and kids. I’m just a dad teaching kids how to be good kids. My goal is to help them learn self-control, to embrace opportunity and be the master of their own education.
Erik: When I get to mentor and speak to children that lack parental guidance, I get to share the adversity that I grew up with, which allows them to see that I’m human and have faced similar hardships as they have endured. I feel that by the time I leave these kids, they’ll personally open up to me and want a better life for themselves. I not only want them to strive for greatness in and out of the classroom, but to pay it forward for those who need help throughout their own journey.
Joe: The Memorial and Museum, together, will continue to be a place of remembrance and learning for years to come. So much hardship and tragedy happens around the world and in our own backyard every single day, but the lessons found at this site, of resilience, bravery and compassion, will continue to be examples for all who visit.
Lastly, what do you want your legacy to be remembered as?
Erik: I would like my legacy to be remembered as a man who is humble, hardworking, loves his family and does right by others.
Bobby: A hard charging and straight shooter father and teacher who strives to do what’s right.
Joe: I’d like to be remembered for creating a place where Americans can come together to learn an important part of our history and take away lessons that impact their lives. I’d like to leave a legacy my children can be proud of and of course, I hope that is what we have been able to do here, in the best city in the world.
How will you continue to grow Manhattan Youth Baseball and the Grades 2 Play organization? Will this become an annual event in which you honor people for their great work in the community?
Bobby: I welcome the opportunity to continue to work with extraordinary people such as Joe Daniels and Erik Coleman on my annual event and produce a generation of kids who are making a difference in the future.
Interested in attending Manhattan Youth Baseball Presents Grades 2 Play Celebrity Charity Casino Night event, you can purchase tickets here: http://www.g2p.nyc/event.html
To learn more about the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, Manhattan Youth Baseball and how you can get involved please visit… 9/11 Memorial: https://www.911memorial.org/
Manhattan Youth Baseball: http://www.manhattanyouthbaseball.com/
Written By: MJ Pedone & Michael Scher