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More than a game

Philanthropy provides sports equipment for kids

The importance of sports to Sam DiMatteo?

Think of a two-out, bases-loaded, tie-game, bottom-of-the-ninth hit.

In other words, it’s very important.

“What baseball did for me as a kid is huge,” says DiMatteo, a 2010 graduate with a degree in business administration. The All-American outfielder for the Vulcans holds school records for hits, runs and stolen bases.

“Being able to play sports teaches you life lessons,” he says. “If you stick with it, it toughens you up a bit. It’s our job to teach kids and keep them in the game.”

DiMatteo grew up in Center Township, in Beaver County, Pa., and now lives in Palm Springs, Calif. After graduating from Cal U, he played professional baseball in various independent leagues.

He retired in 2016 to focus on his career as a hitting coach for the Palm Springs Power in the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League.

He also started The SD Project, a nonprofit organization. Donations made through its website, [thesdproject.com], allow DiMatteo and a team of volunteers to provide lessons and sports equipment to children who face challenging life circumstances.

What started as a small effort focused on western Pennsylvania has grown into a bigger one: Today, The SD Project helps kids across the country and around the world play whatever sport they love.

“I had one kid I was coaching to play baseball, but his family couldn’t afford it,” DiMatteo says. “So I created a GoFundMe page. And that took off, so I decided to do something for any family I came across who needed help. I called it The SD Project. The more we did, the more people wanted to get involved.”

In May 2016, DiMatteo and partner Richie Serritella brought 400 pounds of baseball equipment — gloves, spikes, shoes, T-shirts — to the Medellin Cubs in Colombia.

Images of kids from the House of Hope orphanage in Zimbabwe kicking homemade soccer balls and playing with tires sparked a trip to deliver new equipment.

“In my hometown, they have a bocce league that kids with disabilities can play in,” DiMatteo says. “Their partners are athletes at school. That kind of stuff is so awesome to me. We gave them all gift cards to buy what they need.”

For his philanthropy, California University has nominated DiMatteo for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ 2020 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

“My connection to Cal U is my coach, Mike Conte,” DiMatteo says. “Cal U was a very good place for me. I still talk with, and am friends with, so many people. I’m glad I went there.”

“I appreciate Sam for what he was at Cal U and who he has become as a person,” Conte says. “We’re measured by wins and losses, but as a college coach, you’re trying to get these guys to live healthy, complete, successful lives.

“We want them to grow up and become good citizens, and he has certainly done that.”

By Wendy Mackall, communications director at Cal U

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