Jermaine Curtis wants to make a difference. Whether that be on a Major League Baseball field or not, he just wants to make a difference. The 30-year old was born in Panorama City, California and hails from Fontana. It’s fate where he was born because Curtis truly has a panoramic view on life. He sees everything.
Back in 2013, he made his Major League debut with the St. Louis Cardinals, the club that drafted him in 2008’s fifth round. After attending UCLA, he’s become one of baseball’s best people. Everyone who speaks of him does it through a mile wide smile and has only the very best things to say about him.
So during the 2016 off-season, as Curtis looked at the world around him, he decided that on top of his career as a professional baseball player, he wanted to help change the world.
Born was the idea of ‘Pros Cave.”
After reading an article about the staggering decline in youth sports programs funding and participation, Curtis decided to take action.
“It just hit home,” says the 10-year baseball veteran. “I’m not from a really bad area but I know that I was like one decision from not being where I’m at today. If it wasn’t for baseball, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. I promise you that’s the truth. To me, sports builds character. It keeps young people busy. I think that’s the most important thing is that they’re not distracted and not getting layered into things they’re not supposed to do.”
On top of his day job, he just wanted to find a way to help. Anyway he could.
“It’s important because there’s just so many things going on now and sports builds character. It builds experience. I know that after my career is over, I’ll be fine. That’s because baseball has molded me and taught me so many things that will help me in life. I just think it’s super important that these programs stay around. It’s sad that they’re not getting funded.”
As the article states and Curtis has front and center on his website, nearly 30% (27) of all U.S. public high schools will eliminate sports programs by the year 2020, if current trends continue. Read: if nobody does anything to help.
Knowing the pivotal role baseball played in his development as a human being, Jermaine is answering the call with Pros Cave, a way to reinforce youngsters to stay involved in sports by sending them equipment to use, letters to read for inspiration and providing emotional support and spirit from a pro athlete.
“I was just doing it by myself last off-season. I read about (the decline in youth sports) in an article and was like ‘what the heck?’ so I reached out to sportsmatter.org and talked to them. They told me more about it and I built a connection with them. I was like ‘man, I want to help’ and I had all this stuff. I was leaving from Louisville to go to Oregon in the off-season and I had all this stuff that I was basically just going to throw away. My cleats, glove, stuff that you don’t use anymore.”
Around this time, Facebook was introducing its ‘Facebook Live’ feature, allowing users to broadcast to all of their friends and fans. This provided a direct and interactive avenue for Curtis’ generosity.
“So I went online and I was telling the fans about these things on Facebook Live and I had my glove on that I didn’t use anymore. People started bidding on my glove in the comments. I was like ‘what the heck?!’ I asked what they were doing and they said they would auction off my glove to help fund youth sports programs. That’s when it started.”
Pros Cave started to materialize on the fly, as Curtis worked his professional life as a baseball player, all the while beginning to add in his philanthropic endeavors.
“I started creating (the website) and doing live auctions. Players heard about what I was doing through friends and Facebook and started sending me items and stuff. It moved from that and here I am today, I did it throughout the season. I did it in (Triple-A) Nashville and now Double-A (Midland). I plan on (expanding) it in the off-season. One of the things with the memorabilia is there’s so much stuff so I’m hoarding right now until next season. I’m trying to get as much stuff as possible.”
Always one of the premier people in the clubhouse, it all began for Jermaine Curtis with his father. Days spent outside playing catch and watching games on television with his dad’s friends, five-year old Jermaine once exclaimed “I want to play baseball on T.V.”
The room laughed but there was more than a hint of sincerity floating in the air. Part two of my Jermaine Curtis feature will further delve into his stories and the personal qualities that make this man one in a million.
No matter if we’re discussing Pros Cave, his MLB The Show rating, how much sleep he got last night on the bus or why he does what he does, the conversation tends to circle back to his father.
“My dad was one of those types of people that loved to help people any possible way he can. I grew up that way and I think when you get to a certain place, that you can see (life) from a different perspective. My whole life I’ve been chasing baseball and I’m the older person on the team now and things like that, I see from a different perspective. I think these kids don’t understand how valuable it is and I think it’s our duty to stand up and say something.”
By nature of his various stops in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Oakland, the infectious clubhouse guy has attracted teammates to his cause. Seeing his peers want to contribute to Pros Cave was a big moral victory, as well as a literal one for the cause.
“I was pumped. Especially like (former Boston Red Sox player) Steve Selksy and (former Cincinnati Reds player) Donald Lutz. I had more that started reaching out to me. I thought it was really cool that people wanted to help. When you do something good, people that are connected with you gravitate towards it. I was just pumped that it started to grow into something. With playing baseball, it’s hard to do both but it was still growing. I was doing live auctions with like 500 people on it. People on Facebook were watching me talk and bidding on items and other stuff. It’s pretty crazy how much the fans were into it and how much they wanted to help as well.”
As the movement gained momentum, Curtis started to add more items to the pot. “I sold a broken bat with a painting. I just decided to do that. Every once in awhile if I want to release some emotion, I’ll do a painting. I end up doing that and it sold for like $490! It was just crazy.”
A portion of the proceeds go to sportsmatter.org, but he also sees the players get a cut. It’s their stuff, after all. “I give part of the proceeds to the player. I think they create value too and they should get some so I give players a cut, too. It helps them in their dream to be a Major Leaguer. There are so many players that have played this game and had to leave because they couldn’t afford it. I know that the players will help and it will also help them a little bit in their pockets as well.”
The memorabilia and gear are big sellers, but the thing Pros Cave offers that is closest to Jermaine’s heart are the letters. Hand-written, personal letters that he pens to youngsters around the country, urging them to stay positive and stay with sports.
“Last year this kid in the stands was telling me about his program in Louisville getting shut down. It was underfunded. He was a big fan of mine so I ended up sending him a letter. His mom and dad got shirts that said ‘Curtis’ on the back so I got their address and mailed him a letter with a signed card. The parents were just blown away and said they would pay me to do it once a month. I was like man, that’d be pretty cool to do that, to make a connection, change a life and give proceeds to these underfunded programs.”
Pros Cave has officially launched and you can visit Jermaine Curtis’ website at www.ProsCave.com. There you can find the “Timeless Letters” to purchase. Memorabilia and gear are coming soon as Curtis gathers what he and some friends and teammates have accumulated so far. As Pros Cave gains traction and more eyes, more items will come and the process will replenish itself.
All in the name of saving youth sports programs. It’s what Jermaine Curtis wants to do. For more information, you can contact Jermaine at Jcurtis@proscave.com.