The smell of buttery popcorn wafting from the stands, the satisfying clang of the bat as it hits the ground, the thunderous roar of the crowd as the runner makes a dive for second—the atmosphere of a ball game is a thing to be treasured.
Philanthropist and environmental sustainability advocate Daniel Neiditch knows something about the captivating atmosphere of a baseball game. As a child, attending a game seemed to be something of a dream. Now an adult, he’s had the privilege of throwing three first pitches at major league baseball games–one in Boston, one in Minnesota, and one in St. Louis.
For Daniel, it’s not the excitement of seeing his favorite teams play that makes attending and participating in games a winning experience. Instead, it’s the possibilities wrapped up in the game itself.
Sports as a Platform for Change
Daniel operates within this same space as athletes fighting for change. He sees the potential for sports to positively impact lives and for sports figures to serve as ambassadors for causes as diverse as human rights, socioeconomic disparity, and homelessness.
The power of sports lies in its ability to connect people across socioeconomic, racial, and gender divides. Sports capture an audience reflective of the nations to which they broadcast, and this uniquely positions athletes to speak to a variety of people with a variety of viewpoints from around the world. With such a wide reach, athletes with platforms big and small have an opportunity to support and promote those causes close to their hearts.
But an athlete’s philanthropy can go beyond raising awareness of crucial community needs. Athletes can donate time, money, and influence to their favorite causes. Along with Victoria Beckham, soccer legend David Beckham founded the Victoria and David Beckham Charitable Trust, which provides wheelchairs and other necessities to children. Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson frequents the Seattle Children’s Hospital and is the founder of Why Not You Foundation, an organization dedicated to pediatric cancer research. The beauty of philanthropy is its versatility. There are many different ways for athletes, celebrities, and individuals with influence to give back, and this includes fundraising efforts through sports and using their platform for good. Charity marathons, golf tournaments, cycling events, and baseball games offer a special way to raise awareness of powerful causes. When athletes tap into these events, they empower themselves, their peers, and others to become allies.
Sports as Community
An athlete’s reach goes far beyond the game itself. For many children, athletes serve as both role models and distractions from difficult situations. And when the sports those athletes play are brought into neighborhoods, they serve as a respite from daily hardships and a means of strengthening engagement within the community. Sports can transform an empty field into a social space where families, players, and onlookers can engage in a shared experience. A fun pastime transforms into a forum where ideas can be circulated – and change can take root. The effects of this transformation can then reach out and spread throughout the neighborhood.
Sports encourage connection between peers. Baseball, especially, can be used as a tool for promoting cooperation and encouraging trust. The sport forces players to rely on their peers if they hope to win the game. And that reliance on and trust in others is what makes baseball such a beneficial pastime for underprivileged children because fostering strong connections with others is essential to creating a thriving environment. So much of our day-to-day tasks depend on successful cooperation with various stakeholders. Learning to cooperate with teammates to win a baseball game is not dissimilar to working with coworkers in various fields.
The lessons children learn on the baseball field translate well into school and the broader world. But those lessons can only happen if we continue to invest in sports education and if athletes in positions of power continue to use their voices to promote their sport while standing up for the causes in which they believe.
When Passion Becomes Purpose
Passion is contagious. When a child sees a role model become passionate about a cause, it can motivate them to stand up for causes about which they are passionate. From athletes like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka to activists like Malaa Yousafzai and Greta Thunberg, we’ve seen what can happen when children have the tools to raise their voices. Children are change makers, and change begins with a chance.
When Daniel threw out the first pitch during the Cardinals’ game against the Mets, it was a crisp fifty degrees. The forecast was for a sunny day. And the pitch that he threw was not just a pitch—it was a force for good, a chance to impact the lives of others.
Baseball is not just a game. It’s an opportunity. Not just for Daniel and the thousands of athletes across the globe, but for the children who are recipients of their efforts.
BIO: Daniel Neiditch is an entrepreneur and business leader who has dedicated his career to redefining New York’s real estate industry. His agency, River 2 River Realty, has been responsible for over $1 billion in acquisitions over the past decade. Neiditch is also passionate about green building; his property, Atelier Condo, boasts the highest array of solar panels in NYC. Daniel Neiditch’s thoughts on sustainability and green building can be found on Entrepreneur, Forbes, and SCORE NYC.