Don Mattingly wants to build an R.B.I. program that lasts in Evansville

No one was more disappointed that Don Mattingly when his plans to launch an R.B.I. – Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities — league fell apart a year ago.
He had connected with a former Babe Ruth All-Star teammate, Dean Hall, and felt that Hall would be an ideal point person to roll out the R.B.I. program because of his connections in the Center City. But somewhere along the line Mattingly said the program “got off track” and he and the board of Mattingly Charities chose to pull the plug and cut ties with Hall.
Even Hall admitted that he didn’t clearly communicate his vision to Mattingly when the two talked about starting a league. Hall wanted to involve as many churches and community organizations as he could, possibly lining up more than two dozen teams in various age groups for baseball and softball. He also made late requests to the Mattingly Charities board for stipends he could offer coaches. He reportedly also sought a salary for himself.
Other R.B.I. leagues have done that, so Hall wasn’t completely out of line with his requests. But he also made the wrong assumption that Mattingly would be willing to write a check to cover all the league expenses, no matter how much they piled up.
“That’s kind of the philosophical problem of it,” said Mattingly, now manager of the Miami Marlins.
Consider it the curse of being both rich and a part-time resident of your hometown. There’s always someone coming out of the woodwork who believes the know how to spend your money better than you.
Mattingly has been dealing with sketchy business proposals in Evansville since his Donnie Baseball playing days with the New York Yankees.
He’s disappointed the R.B.I. league took that sour turn shortly after holding a launch party at the Blush Ultralounge that attracted a lot of community support.
From his standpoint, Mattingly envisioned that the league would start out as a program for younger age groups, involve no more than 50 to 75 players and rely on volunteer coaches.
When he learned that Hall was trying to throw together a much larger program, involving hundreds of players in five or six age groups, Mattingly and his Mattingly Charities board were concerned that their charitable resources would be spread too thin. They had planned to operate on a much smaller budget that would pay umpires. cover field maintenance expenses and give every player a ball, bat and glove.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the direction it was going,” said Mattingly. “It never changed what I wanted to do, it just had to reorganize a little bit. The goals are still the same, it’s just a little different leadership in place now.”
He’s now aligned himself primarily with the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville.
He and wife Lori are also hosting a fund-raising event at the USI Theatre on Thursday night with country singer Toby Keith and former St. Louis Cardinals player Albert Pujols. Sorry, it’s sold out.
Additionally, he has arranged for Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter to speak to a business group on Friday with the money raised from that event going to Mattingly Charities to fund programs in Evansville.
He said the Mattingly R.B.I. league definitely will be launched in the spring.
As for how he managed to line up Toby Keith for the event: Mattingly said he and Keith became friends after the country icon performed at Roberts Stadium in 2009 and he learned that Keith was a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I’m a bit of an all music fan, but if I’m turning the radio on, I usually end up on country,” said Mattingly. “Whatever city I’m in, I usually end up on country.”
He’ll be relieved to learn that even Miami, with its airwaves jammed with hispanic, hip-hop and rock stations, does have one country station, WKIS-FM – Kiss Country.

This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Pro Baseball by Randy Beard. Bookmark the permalink.

About Randy Beard

Randy Beard has been at the Courier & Press since 2007 and became the sports editor in 2012. He has previously been a sports editor at the Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail and the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat. He began his professional sports journalist career in 1976 and has spent his career primarily covering college sports in the ACC, SEC and Big Ten. He's also covered the NFL, the original North American Soccer League and professional tennis and golf. He's covered two Super Bowls, three college football national championship games, dozens of NCAA basketball tournament games, an Olympics, a World Cup and once hung out with soccer legend George Best for two days and sat in a golf cart with Jan Stephenson.

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