By “paying it forward” and helping Baltimore’s youth, Dillon Tate is the Orioles’ Roberto Clemente Award Nominee – Twin Cities

Dillon Tate was caught completely off guard. He addressed the crowd of children at Camden Yards in late August as part of his Baseball Academia Corp., a youth-focused baseball group he runs with his cousin.

Then manager Brandon Hyde came out to watch, and the kids Tate was talking to pulled out signs. And as Tate read what they had written — congratulating the right-handed reliever on becoming the Orioles’ Roberto Clemente Award nominee — his speech stopped.

“I had no idea,” Tate said. “I was just doing my thing.”

Tate never sought any credit. Little did he know that what he was doing would put him in the running for a Major League Baseball honor. All Tate wanted was a way to give back to the community, paying for what coaches and mentors did for him growing up playing in youth baseball leagues and at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton. , in California.

When his cousin, Johannes Boyd, called Tate shortly after the Aug. 24 presentation, “he was speechless,” Boyd said. “He was absolutely speechless.”

And since he learned of the appointment, the feeling is still the same.

“I’m still not sure how I feel about it,” Tate said. “Of course, it’s a very positive thing. It is a great recognition to be honored in this way. But the general premise was right, we’re going to do this and try to make a positive impact in some way. It was something that was so simple and ended up being recognized by a bigger organization. So it’s an honor. »

With the nomination, MLB will donate $7,500 to Baseball Academia Corp; the Orioles will match the donation.

The idea had long crossed Tate’s mind, but as he and Boyd cycled through Carroll Park in West Baltimore two years ago, the opportunity finally presented itself. Tate didn’t say anything to Boyd, but he started pointing his bike to practice which included 6 and 7 year olds. Boyd followed.

Once there, the first steps of Tate’s organization took shape. He introduced himself to coaches and players, then asked them to keep in touch. On a day off, Tate returned to his training to teach the kids the basics of pitching and throwing.

“There were no ifs, ands, or buts,” Boyd said. “We just did. It was very, coincidental, is the word I use, because we had talked about this stuff, but we had no idea we were going to see this band. We were just out for a casual ride, keeping fit and staying active. And they happened to be there at the time when we were looking to get involved in the community. The opportunity presented itself immediately and we seized it.

Over the next two years, Tate’s involvement expanded. The lockout at the start of this season gave Boyd and Tate time to focus on forming Baseball Academia Corp., applying for nonprofit status, and meeting with other area foundations. to brainstorm ideas.

Tate has hosted a group of children at Camden Yards each month this season, and Tate has visited several practices to give practical advice. He draws his own life experiences into every discussion, from his time at Urban Youth Academy to struggling for playtime as a freshman at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tate ended up being a first-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers in 2015, but he had a 5.12 ERA before being traded to the New York Yankees. He then moved to Baltimore as part of the deal that brought Zack Britton closer to the Yankees in 2018.

Each twist gives him material for his speeches, lessons he has learned and wants to pass on to the next generation. He knows there’s a barrier to entry for some families in baseball, but Tate tries to emphasize the work ethic and do what’s right — in baseball and in life — as cornerstones of its discussions.

“Being in my shoes, I would love to see more kids who look like me playing the game, or just letting them know that you have what it takes to play the game,” Tate said. “For some kids it’s difficult just because it’s an expensive sport. Getting your foot in the door or getting something off the ground with baseball can be tough with some families where money can be tight. I think just showing them that there is a way to do it, even if you don’t have a lot of it, is one of the main things I want to preach to them.

Tate credits the volunteer coaches and mentors in Los Angeles with growing him as a vital part of his development into a major leaguer who holds a 2.71 ERA in 63 innings for Baltimore this season.

“I think more than anything, it was the opportunity that was given to me,” Tate said. “I felt like I always had good visibility in terms of the coaches, the mentors at the Urban Youth Academy. I think that’s something I wanted to continue, at least, as I was moving forward in my baseball career. For me, it’s just pay it forward. It’s what I had, so I want to give it to the next group of kids.

When asked what it was like to become a Roberto Clemente Award nominee, Tate shook his head. He doesn’t see himself in the same light as a “model citizen” like Clemente, the former Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder who died in a plane crash at age 38 in 1972 while on his way to bring assistance to victims of the earthquake in Nicaragua.

But Tate appreciates the honor, and he’s focused on what’s next — finding other ways to better serve Baltimore’s young baseball players. He just never thought there would be recognition attached to his service.

“Influence, that’s what it’s called, I guess, today. He’s not about that,” Boyd said. “He’s very much to himself, a pretty quiet person when it comes to things like that. I know it’s really for his heart and for the gift.

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