Is it just me, or does it seem as if every week another scandal erupts in our media about some sports activity or sports celebrity? We hear about parents caught up in a fight at a Little League game, some sports “hero” arrested for assault, gun possession, drunk driving or even child molestation.
I'm starting to wonder, what's the future of sports as we know it in America?
Just like many young men growing up in mid-twentieth century in America, sports was an integral part of my positive character development. Recently, however, I found myself drifting away from the enjoyment of the game to a more jaded outlook. Where did sports seem to be going for me? I'm not going to hold back here: to the garbage dump.
Then I met Bob Salomon.
Salomon, who is virtually unknown to the average sports fan, has been becoming a fixture to sports insiders over the past three years. To those who know him personally, he is a devoted husband, adoring father of two, and a Little League coach to his son. A humble man of faith from New Jersey, it is his "A Glove Of Their Own" project that is having impact on the world of sports.
It was Bob who introduced me to the phrase “pay it forward.” This is the idea that instead of paying someone back for assistance rendered to you, you pay it forward in an unselfish way by helping others, simply as an act of kindness to those in need.
To actually demonstrate this principle, Bob developed a vision and published a book to spread the pay it forward message of kindness. To that end, he teamed up with authors Debbie Moldovan, Keri Conkling, and Lisa Funari-Willever. Their book is called "A Glove Of Their Own."
"Glove" tells the story of underprivileged sandlot kids who inspire an adult to share in their experience as he helps them by donating the equipment necessary for a game of baseball.
The book’s story will bring you back to your childhood, as well as tug at the heart strings.
For Salomon, the book has become a personal project and a fund-raiser for kids and the great game of baseball. His efforts have picked up support from everyone from Rawlings to Louisville Slugger to Modell’s. It has also gained the support of non-profit organizations such as Covenant House, Mattingly Charities, The Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, and Joe Torre's Safe at Home Foundation.
The greatest endorsements come from major league athletes including Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Mike Sweeney, Jason Grilli, Eric Chavez, Nelson Cruz, Bud Harrelson, Michael Cuddyer, Roy White, Phil Niekro, Jim Eisenreich, and many more.
These athletes embrace Bob’s perspective that they, the role models to the next generation, should positively invest in the lives of our youth and the local communities in which they reside and play.
As Salomon notes, "When you get the support of professional athletes, those who really appreciate the opportunities of playing the game on a pro level and who realize that the blessings they receive for that accomplishment are just that, blessings, than you can accomplish significant benefits for children. When bringing those athletes together to coordinate their efforts to pay it forward to children—their biggest fans—and the athletes are excited to do this in big numbers, this is the way to promote a positive message and change things that are detrimental to the world of sports. Instead of just talking about it, these professionals are doing something.”
In support of coordinating these many business and personal efforts, a website has been spawned, agloveoftheirown.com, where a portion from the sale of each book is donated to the following organizations: Good Sports, Sports Gift, and Pitch In For Baseball. In addition, Bob sees to it that $3 of every book sold will be given to any school or non-profit organization that joins his effort.
And there is more.
After the amazing success of this award winning book, Bob hopes to expand his assistance to children as he produces a second book, this time focusing on the sport of football. The story, "Beyond the Laces," will portray the true gift of athletes, the impact they have on children. It will unite all sports and also showcase the message of never giving up.
Why the follow-up? Because, as Bob so often says, “The kids are our future, and professional athletes are often the role models who help shape their lives. Because of the story line in the next book, I hope to bring together all athletes for the good of our children.”
For readers, that plot promises to take them on a roller coaster of emotions as the game of football helps a father and son overcome an obstacle that simply defines the will to keep fighting.Salomon’s own love for the sport is beneficial, and with many big names sharing his beliefs, the sky is the limit for what this new project can achieve.
As Bob notes, “'Beyond the Laces' is football at its best; a story of how one of America's greatest past times gives a father and son the will and inspiration to overcome great adversity.” Written to inspire children, "Beyond the Laces" will appeal to all ages, especially as parents read it aloud to their children. The story itself will tug at the heart-strings of anyone who has ever endured the storms of life—and witnessed the sun ultimately re-appearing.
The book will provide lessons of life that are unmistakable for, as Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath observed, "Football...is a game about sharing. It's a team game—so is life." And so is a message of "Beyond the Laces."
Also in support of Bob’s efforts is former major league outfielder Doug Glanville, now a commentator for ESPN. “Bob Salomon’s stories have been rallied behind and a movement that was spawned with a charitable heart and the will of a lion. And we plan on barnstorming the globe sharing the message, bringing more people into the fold and truly ‘paying it forward’ to help children. I hope you will join us, because it is a runaway train and it will one day bring the humanity back to all of the sports we hold dear by employing our greatest resource: People.”
To go back to my original question: where are sports going in America? Just ask Bob Salomon: “The goal of the football book is to make all athletes come together to help kids. We want to tour throughout hospitals, and other places where the needs exist, going around the country with various sports figures to send the message out about not giving up. My dream is that professional sports will use the book to help promote this message and that the athletes themselves will be given the opportunity for a positive impact on children and just show that people do care.”
These days, after all those negative headlines related to sports we so often see, with Salomon’s efforts we just may be witnessing the sun ultimately re-appearing.
I know it has happened to me!
Rick Young is the author of "Combat Police: U.S. Army Military Police in Vietnam" and co-author with Michael E. Bolyog of the "Aiden’s Cauldron Trilogy." As a result of Bob Salomon’s commitment to helping children, he has become involved in the "Beyond the Laces" project.