Roberto’s Kids: A Legacy Continues
This original article was written by Scott Morris and can be read over at Dreaming of Cooperstown.
Clemente never met Steve Pindar. Save one important similarity, they have little in common. Roberto Clemente, a native of Puerto Rico, became a baseball legend patrolling the outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s. Steve Pindar was born in Cooperstown, New York, the birthplace of baseball, an early clue, perhaps, that baseball was in his future.
Baseball, like life, offers many important lessons. The story of Clemente and Pindar teaches us that teamwork is about a shared passion in pursuit of a common goal, regardless of athletic ability.
Clemente was an extraordinary athlete who became the eleventh member of Major League Baseball’s exclusive 3,000 hit club. Clemente won two World Series championships, four National League batting titles, received the Most Valuable Player award, and earned twelve consecutive Gold Gloves on his way to the Hall of Fame.
Steve Pindar’s on-the-field baseball accomplishments, on the other hand, are less noteworthy. He doesn’t have a devastating breaking pitch and he can’t spot his fastball. Actually, his fastball is probably better tracked with a calendar than a radar gun. When he runs the bases put away your stopwatch and cross your fingers you won’t need to dial 911.
Yet, Steve Pindar has done more for underprivileged youth around the world than most five-tool baseball players have ever dreamed about. In 1997, Steve Pindar and his wife, Lisa, began doing missionary work and providing humanitarian aid in the Dominican Republic. They soon discovered that in spite of baseball’s popularity, many Latin American children lacked the equipment others often take for granted. The Pindar’s decided to center their focus on collecting baseball equipment and, in 1999, received their first donation from New York’s Oneonta Little League.
While Roberto Clemente achieved legendary baseball status on the field, to many his greatest legacy is his humanitarian work. By all accounts, Roberto Clemente was a compassionate man who loved people and inspired others through his selfless deeds. Clemente used his baseball fame to advocate for human rights and to help the underprivileged.
And, it is through Pindar’s off-the-field humanitarian efforts that we discover he and Clemente were kindred spirits with a shared passion for using baseball as a platform to help the less fortunate. In this regard, they are, indeed, teammates.
It was on a humanitarian mission, on New Year’s Eve in 1972, that Clemente, 38, lost his life. The plane he chartered to deliver supplies to earthquake stricken Nicaragua crashed.
On this day, the hits, the Gold Gloves, the on field accomplishments came to a sudden, albeit Hall of Fame worthy, end. Clemente’s humanitarian efforts, however, would not end. The human spirit does not work that way.
Roberto Clemente’s legacy would not allow the final out to be recorded because he had a guy, in fact, a lot of guys. One might say a team of guys. In baseball nomenclature, a “guy” is that teammate that can be counted on to find a way to get a job, the play that needs to be made, done. At the very least, a “guy” can be counted on to put in an extraordinary effort, the kind of effort that teammates come to rely on. An effort that says, together we are stronger. Steve Pindar is that kind of teammate
By 2005, the Pindar’s were collecting and distributing nearly five tons of equipment per year. But while they were grateful and in awe of the support, they knew there was more they could do.
Steve reached out to some friends through the Baseball Hall of Fame who introduced him to the Clemente family. The Clemente family, who had been continuing Roberto’s humanitarian efforts through the Roberto Clemente Foundation, was impressed by the Pindar’s work and agreed to let them use Roberto’s name to help advance their mission. In January 2006, Roberto’s Kids was born.
The mission of Roberto’s Kids is to teach social responsibility through baseball. The nonprofit organization collects new and gently worn baseball equipment from the United States and Canada and distributes it to disadvantaged youth in Latin American countries, the United States and around the World. In 2012, Roberto’s Kids distributed 45 tons of equipment!
For many children in impoverished countries heroes don’t wear capes or have sidekicks. They discover, hopefully, that heroism is achieved one day at a time, one deed at a time, one choice at a time. In the case of Steve Pindar, it is achieved one gently worn piece of baseball equipment at a time, or one hour at a time: organizing a garage sale, a youth baseball league fundraiser, or recruiting a corporate sponsor. In his actions and his words, Steve Pindar helps tell the story of the man from Puerto Rico whose passion for helping others made him a legend. Steve Pindar reminds us that heroism is found in the legacy that is created over a life’s body of work.
Steve Pindar will be the first person to protest being called a hero, and say simply he is using baseball to teach his sons, Joshua and Christopher, social responsibility. He will insist, in self-deprecating fashion, that he is just a guy. And, he would be right. He is a guy. He is one of Roberto’s guys, which is to say, he is one of the good guys.