Content contributed by Randy Rodriguez, Head Baseball Coach at Miami Carol City High School.
Coach Randy Rodriguez may not be a household name in the South Florida high school baseball scene. His team, the Carol City Chiefs, is not a perennial state championship contender. The program is also not a pipeline to major Division I college programs. Their home games are not littered with scouts holding radar guns and clipboards. In fact, at Miami Carol City High School there isn’t even a baseball field to host practices or home games.
In 2015, what the Carol City Chiefs baseball team did have was two returning players for the spring season: Ayeo Randolph and James Falmer. Although Ayeo, a 5’5″ 140lb outfielder, had finished the 2014 season hitless, he was committed to reinventing his swing and pursuing his dream of playing college baseball. While Ayeo’s mother, an All-Conference MEAC softball player at Florida A&M University, was the first person to teach him the game, the baton was soon passed to Coach Randy to help Ayeo take his game to the next level. By the end of last spring, Ayeo’s game had improved immensely and he motivated his teammates to join him in participating in the Marlins Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities (RBI) summer program and work towards building something special in Miami Gardens. They were able to field a team led by Coach Randy and while the team finished the RBI Season 0-10, they never wavered in their commitment to show up to every game, play hard, and focus on getting better every inning of every game.
James Falmer was one of those players who was motivated to continue playing over the summer. Falmer may not have had the opportunity to participate in the Marlins RBI program had it not been for Ayeo’s persistence. Despite being a junior at Carol City, 2015 was James’ first year playing baseball and he started the spring season on the JV Team. He would ride his bike to school, practice at an offsite baseball training facility in Miami Gardens, and then travel back home on a daily basis. James’ swing quickly developed, leading to an early promotion to the Varsity Team where he would finish the season as the team’s batting champion, hitting .294. In addition to the on-field success, James spent late nights at the baseball facility completing his homework where he was able to access the Internet. Despite these obstacles, James dreams of one day earning his degree in sports administration and working for a professional sports franchise.
On January 30, 2016, Ayeobele “Ayeo” Randolph and James Falmer will sign letters of intent to play baseball at Morris College, becoming the first Carol City High School baseball players to do so in 10 years. Congratulations to Ayeo, James and Coach Randy!
I’ve witnessed Giancarlo Stanton do some incredible things during his time with the Miami Marlins, but his most impressive display took place a few days ago. It wasn’t a 500-foot home run or a diving catch on the warning track, and it didn’t make SportsCenter’s top plays.
Earlier this month, Big G changed the lives of over 60 kids who had been pre-screened at Lenora B. Smith Elementary and identified as needing intense dental work. Giancarlo spent time with every single child who sat in one of the chairs at Spodak Dental from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Whether it was a little girl who was scared or a young man who was recovering from having his teeth extracted, Giancarlo was there with almost a superhero-like presence to make them feel better.
At the end of the day, $50,000 worth of dental care was provided to children who, in some cases, had never seen the inside of a dentist’s office. It was most unbelievable to hear some kids say it was the best day ever; a trip to the dentist was the best day in some of these kids’ lives.
Thank you, Giancarlo, for having Marlins Ayudan join you in making a difference this offseason.
Great baseball player. But better man.
You know Dee Gordon as “The Flash.” He steals bases regularly, gets a hit seemingly every night, and never fails to cap off a big win with the perfect dunk. What you might not have seen as much, though, is the other side of Dee… off the field.
His contributions to the community this year have been tremendous — and they haven’t gone unnoticed. Dee was the Marlins nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, going to a player in each league who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team.”
Scroll down to see just 10 of the many times this year Dee made a difference:
10 – Marlins Ayudan Week
During Ayudan Week in February, Dee spent a day visiting little leaguers at Miami Carol City Park, where he shared baseball tips and gave advice to the young aspiring athletes.
9 – Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities
Dee also teamed up with former Marlin Cliff Floyd to coach a Marlins RBI baseball game during Ayudan Week. We’re not sure who had a better time: Dee and Cliff or the kids.
8 – Parkinson’s
Back in April, Dee joined forces with Blechman Foundation for Parkinson’s Research to promote awareness and raise money. Dee’s goal? Stealing as many bases as he could that month. All funds raised during the “stolen base challenge” — called Dee-Feat Parkinson’s Disease — went directly towards Parkinson’s research. You can read more about Dee’s efforts here.
7 – Military Appreciation
In honor of Military Appreciation Day in May, Dee and his teammates spent the afternoon with veterans at the Honda Classic. Based on their smiles, it’s obvious the day was one to remember.
6 – More RBI
In May, Marlins RBI athletes participated in a youth baseball clinic with the second baseman, where they learned hitting and fielding techniques. Getting advice from a batting champion and potential Gold Glover? Priceless.
5 – Math Wiz
Dee visited students at Lenora B. Smith Elementary School in June, where he even helped teach a math class!
4 – Friendly at Second Base
During select games, young Fish fans are given the opportunity to be a “Grounds Crew for a Day.” Each time, without fail, Dee took it upon himself to greet the children who came his way, giving them a “high-five” and — if they were lucky — their very own baseball.
3 – Good Dude
After an elderly fan was left started by a foul ball off his bat last month, Dee went above and beyond to remedy the situation. He ran over to the 93-year-old as soon as the inning ended and spoke with her to ensure she was okay. Shortly thereafter, Dee returned — this time with the gift of a bat and baseball. You can read more about about the touching moment here.
2 – Day made.
Just a few days later, another ball hit off Dee’s bat nearly struck a young fan. Without hesitation, Dee collected one of his bats, signed it — with an apology! — and gave it to the boy. Day made.
1 – Flash of Hope
Dee’s “Flash of Hope” is a program designed to help children who have lost a parent from domestic violence. Once per month during the season, Dee is paired with a child who lost a parent. He gives them the VIP treatment, taking them inside the clubhouse, introducing them to his teammates, and even spending time together on the field during batting practice. Next year, Dee hopes to expand the program even further.
With all of that said, it’s a no-brainer Dee Gordon has made an incredible difference in the community this year.
UPDATE: How could we forget about the day Dee took a young Fish fan suffering from leukemia under his wing? Watch the unforgettable day unfold here:
It’s been almost a month since we hosted nearly 30 World War II veterans for the Spirit of ‘45, an annual, nation-wide initiative to preserve the legacy of the “Greatest Generation.” The mission of Spirit of ‘45 is to inspire Americans to come together to meet historic challenges of our era through examples of personal courage, shared sacrifice, “can-do” attitude and service to community demonstrated by the men and woman of the WWII era.
I had the honor of interviewing five World War II veterans for this special occasion: Julian M. Syphax, Col. S. Buddy Harris, Lt. Col. Leo Gray, Gilbert Neufeld, and Morton Wiener. With 9/11 having just passed, I thought I’d share snip bits from these heroes interviews in the spirit of paying tribute to all men and woman who serve of country, from military personnel to first responders. Enjoy!
Marlins Ayudan never stops giving back to the community, and last week was no exception! Blue Shirts completed five service projects; that’s one for every day of the work week!
To get in the spirit of the new school year, Blue Shirts returned early to Coral Way K – 8 last Monday to help beautify the school for Opening Day. 21 Blue Shirts from Marlins Ayudan teams Ana’s Heroes, Kickin’ Asphalt, and Habitat for Winning planted bushes, painted offices, loaded furniture into classrooms and pressure washed exterior walls and sidewalks.
With all that manpower, Marlins Ayudan was able to save custodians two weeks worth of work! That’s 80 hours they can now devote to Principal Dovale’s other needs.
On Tuesday, the Marlins 2015 MVP (Most Valuable Professionals) Intern Class participated in their very own, interns-only Ayudan event. 34 interns visited Monkey Jungle to assist with the removal of air potato vines, an invasive species, from their Amazonian rainforest preserve. The air potato is considered an injurious weed because of its tendency to grow rather tenaciously, preventing native plants from reaching sunlight.
Interns received special access into the preserved forest. As soon as they entered the canopy, they were bombarded by squirrel monkeys whose only interest was the possibility of food. Once they realized there wasn’t any, they quickly retreated back to the canopy above. Interns removed air potato vines for an hour as they listened to the cries of howler monkeys and exotic birds.
Monkey Jungle was so generous. They provided lunch and snacks for the interns and gave each one of them two boxes of raisins to feed the monkeys. Everyone had a great time and can’t wait for the next intern event in October.
Wednesday consisted of two events: refreshing Citrus Grove Elementary’ s garden in the morning and distributing school supplies to local families in the evening.
Team Pulse visited Citrus Grove Elementary earlier this year, in March, and completely revived the school’s vegetable and spice garden, preparing it to become an outdoor classroom for 5th grade science students. This time around, Pulse pulled weeds and laid new mulch to beautify the garden for the start of a new school year.
On Wednesday evening, 21 Blue Shirts helped distribute school supplies to needy families on the East Plaza of Marlins Park. Our park served as the official launch for Kiwanis of Little Havana’s annual Back to School Distribution. This week, Kiwanis will visit eight local schools to distribute school supplies, three of which are Marlins Ayudan partner schools.
Marlins Foundation has partnered with Kiwanis for the last four years. Our support has allowed the organization to increase the number of families it serves. Marlins Foundation co-sponsored the Back to School Program with a $20,000 gift! By the end of the week, 8,000 book bags filled with school supplies will have been distributed.
Ayudan team C’mon Blue visited the Fisher House on Friday to prepare a Mexican meal for veterans’ families. The menu included Mexican lasagna and rice, homemade refried beans, tacos, fajitas, enchiladas and tres leches for dessert. This week, Ayudan champions The Voice will visit the Fisher House. Let’s see if their cooking skills are as good as their reputation!