Mark Teixeira has been on a tear of historic proportions so far this season.
Teixeira is just the fourth player in Yankee history to start the year with four homers in five games. He’s also the fourth Yankee since 1920 to drive in ten runs in the season’s first five games.
He didn’t get a chance to add to those gaudy numbers on Wednesday when the Yankees-Twins game was rained out.
But, for a group of East Harlem kids, Teixeira still hit one out of the park.
The Yankees first baseman announced on Wednesday afternoon that he’s making a $1 million donation to Harlem RBI, an East Harlem-based charity dedicated to helping the community’s underserved youth. In addition to his donation, Teixeira plans to serve as a driving force behind the construction of a new facility in the neighborhood.
“We have a chance to really make part of Harlem revitalized,” Teixeira said.
Harlem RBI is centered around baseball and softball with an academic focus of helping kids get into college. It started 20 years ago as a diamond on East 100th St., part a of Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. It has grown into the largest youth-serving organization in the neighborhood, with more than 1,000 members.
Teixeira joined the Harlem RBI Board of Directors in 2010 after his sister, Elizabeth Durastanti, turned his attention to the program.
“When I saw what Harlem RBI was doing in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York City and really making a difference in kids’ lives … I knew it was an organization I wanted to be a part of,” Teixeira said.
Teixeira has done more than just write checks to support the program, according to executive director Richard Berlin.
“What mostly he’s given of himself is his time and his energy and his passion -- his belief in what these kids can be,” Berlin said.
Sade Henderson, a 16-year-old junior from East Harlem, certainly appreciates Teixeira’s effort. She’s a junior at Academy of Social Action and an active member of Harlem RBI.
“I was just watching him hit home runs this morning. If he’s donating $1 million dollars, it just emphasizes that he wants to enrich RBI,” Henderson said. “He really cares about the Harlem community.”
The facility Teixeira is working to raise money to construct will include a 450-seat public charter school, a community center, 87 units of public housing and a rebuilt public park. It is scheduled to be built next to the existing grounds, on 100th St. between 1st and 2nd avenues.
Teixeira is calling on fans to help raise additional funds for the project. Any fans interested in donating to the endeavor can do so through dreamteam25.org or text “RBI” to 50555 to make a $10 donation.
“I think it’s just a perfect marriage of education, the opportunity and urban development,” Teixeira said of the program.
To Brian Paulino, a 16-year-old from East Harlem, the program’s new facility will be a magnet for children in the neighborhood.
“I know a lot of little kids and I can just bring them up to Harlem RBI,” said Paulino, a long-time Harlem RBI member. “It will have a big impact.”
Paulino is a standout left-hander on the St. Raymond HS baseball team with plans to go to college. He's considering St. John’s and the University of Tampa, among other schools.
“I wouldn't be doing this without the program,” he said.
Words like that, from the children in East Harlem, have inspired Teixeira to take action.
“These kids are going to be the future of Harlem,” he said.