A TEAM EFFORT - THE CURE BASEBALL
Baseball is played for a number of reasons. Fun and entertainment usually motivate kids and amateurs, while fame and fortune prompt professional aspirations. Personally, I used to play to impress the chicks. A plan that worked great until my girlfriend watched Greg Anderson take me yard twice in a game. Greg went home with the girl while all I was left with was an inflated ERA. If things go according to plan, starting next year Alex Paluka will field a team that takes to the diamond for a far more selfless reason - to make a difference in people's lives who have been effected by cancer.
Inspired by the passing of his mother who died of breast cancer the day after Christmas ten years ago, Paluka began working out a business plan for The Cure Baseball. His idea was to create a summer collegiate baseball team which would play other summer teams with each game acting as a cancer fundraiser. Funds would go to directly help families coping with the life-changing impact caused by cancer as well as for research for a cure.
The inspiration for The Cure Baseball developed when Paluka played for the Utica Brewers in the summer of 2008. He pitched an idea to the team's general manager to hold a baseball game to raise money for breast cancer research. The idea was a hit and they printed pink shirts, solicited local businesses for donations and sold tickets to the game which raised nearly $7,500 for two local families who had been dealing with breast cancer.
Impressed with such a unique and selfless cause, an interview with Paluka and The Cure Baseball quickly became a must for College Baseball Lineup. Pakuka was able to chat up The Cure Baseball recently while planning the group's first 5K run.
College Baseball Lineup: How did the idea for The Cure Baseball come about?
Alex Paluka: The idea for The Cure Baseball first came to me during the summer of 2008. I was asked to play in the Eastern Collegiate Baseball League (now part of the NYCBL) for the Utica Brewers in Utica, New York. After being in Utica for a couple weeks I called our General Manager and asked if I could talk with him. He originally thought I was going to tell him I was going home. I definitely wasn't going home.
I pitched to him (no pun intended) the idea to host a game which would raise money for two local women who were battling stage four breast cancer. My mom had passed away the day after Christmas, my freshman year of high school in 2001, after an eight year battle with breast cancer. Needless to say fighting to find a cure for cancer truly hits home with me. We ended up raising nearly $10,000 and split that money between these two wonderful ladies.
After that summer I continued to search for my path through baseball and life. I was still so upset and mad about the death of my mom I struggled to truly embrace life and live to the fullest. Then a little over 18 months ago I sat down and truly started to begin researching the nonprofit business sector and what it entails. I developed a business plan, consulted with people within the industry and we launched The Cure Baseball roughly October 1, 2011. This is my true path in life. I want to give back to you, to the people who hate cancer as much as I do, and love the game of baseball unconditionally.
CBL: So what are some of the ways The Cure Baseball plans on impacting the fight
Paluka: When I envisioned this organization I truly believe our impact will be felt on both a local and national level. The organization is based around a summer collegiate team which travels to other summer collegiate teams around the country; using every game we play as a platform to raise support and awareness for ALL types of cancer.
Our team will be comprised of college baseball players ranging from all sizes of schools and every level of college baseball. At every one of our game we will make a donation to a local member of the community who has been greatly affected by cancer. Then our national donations will go to cancer research center that are affiliated with colleges and universities. For example Indiana University is home to the Simon Cancer Research Center, Creighton University has the Hereditary Cancer Center, University of Connecticut boasts the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center and there are hundreds more all across the country. I truly believe that these donations to these university cancer centers will empower the students that will find a cure for cancer one day.
I believe that the student-athletes who represent The Cure Baseball will be phenomenal ambassadors for the organization, but it will be their classmates in these research centers who will hopefully one day put us out of business. That will be the greatest day for this organization. We will also award scholarships to high school seniors who plan to play baseball and enter into the medical field with a focus on oncology.
Finally hosting support and focus groups will be a key aspect to our community outreach in our hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. I remember when I was going through everything with my mom and how many questions I had, how many answers I couldn't find and ultimately how many emotions I kept to myself. We simply hope to be able to provide an out reached hand that people will in turn grasp and use for support.
CBL: Once you're ready to start building a team, how will the roster be created?
Paluka: We will build our roster with the help of our Director of Baseball operations. We will reach out to schools across the country, Division I, II, III, NAIA and Junior Colleges. Our main goal with the team will be to develop a group of young student-athletes who are gifted both on and off the diamond. These young men will come with the highest of recommendations from coaches and staff.
We will be looking for ballplayers with a passion for the game and the ability to relate to the battle people fight during their personal bout with cancer. Cancer touches all of us in some way, shape or form; some more than others, but none the less all of us. We want players who understand how lucky they are to have the opportunity to play the greatest game in the world, and know the importance that a simple smile, hug or ?I'm thinking about you? can do for someone.
CBL: Then after the team has been assembled, who are they going to play against?
Paluka: We will look to keep our schedule mainly up and down the eastern part of the country; playing teams in the Cape Cod League, New England Collegiate Baseball League, New York Collegiate Baseball League, The Perfect Game Summer Collegiate League, The Cal Ripken Summer Collegiate League, The Coastal Plains League, Atlantic Coast Baseball League, The Valley League, The Prospect League, Southern Collegiate League and The Great Lakes League. With that being said we are not opposed to doing a west coast summer swing as well.
What I feel is truly unique about our organization is that we'll have an opportunity with every game we play to change someone's life. There is no team that there sole mission is raise support and awareness for a disease. We want to give these student-athletes every opportunity to succeed on the field, but we also want to play a role in their development in becoming men of the game and using their abilities to change people's lives.
CBL: How has the response been so far?
Paluka: Honestly, I'm blown away by the amount of people who have taken a liking to our organization in such a short period of time. Not a day goes by where I don't get a call, message or email from a complete stranger just saying ?Thank You?. I am so humbled and honored that people are using my story and the organization as a rock in their own life. I started this organization for everyone who has, will be and is currently affected by cancer; ALL types. It affects children, moms, dads, best friends and even ballplayers. Sports are the greatest way to get a message across, and I want nothing more than for people to see our logo and get that feeling inside of them that screams, ?Thank you for doing this!? I miss my mom every single day; no one else should ever have to feel that.
CBL: If someone wants to get involved or help out, what can they do?
Paluka: We are open to pretty much anything. People have reached out to us and have asked if they can do various fundraisers. We just want people to know who we are in hopes they feel a connection to the organization and the cause. Then we hope they take that emotion and spread it to others by showing them our website, by ?Liking? our Facebook page and following us on Twitter. We have a couple big fundraisers planned for this year.
We are doing a 5K run/walk in Zionsville, Indiana. This is where I was born and grew up. We are also working with College Baseball Lineup on putting together a golf outing which would take place the day before the start of the college world series in Omaha, Nebraska. Please check out our website for the latest fundraiser details.
I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for their support, willingness to help and their help in spreading the word about The Cure Baseball. I truly believe strength in a cause like this lies in the number of people who are passionate about it. Passion is attractive, and will truly outshine everything else.
Thank you for taking the time to read this interview and I hope you all contact me and The Cure Baseball, and make sure you try and come out to a game during the summer of 2013!
''Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on Earth.''- Roberto Clemente