Every time CC Sabathia steps on the mound, he brings the heart of a champion to go along with his flame throwing left arm. Standing at 6’7” with his trademark hat cocked slightly to the side, CC’s imposing presence on the mound belies a gentle giant, a man of family, faith and philanthropy, off the field.
Throughout his career, CC Sabathia’s support of community-focused off-the-field activities and non-profit programs has been an important element in rounding out his contribution to the teams for whom he has played. Beginning with his time in Cleveland, CC gave to the Larry Doby RBI Program via a yearly contribution to Cleveland Indians Charities as well as participated in other local programs in neighboring communities. Since moving on to the Milwaukee Brewers and now the New York Yankees, CC has maintained a level of support to organizations and causes that are of personal interest to him in his hometown of Vallejo, California and the greater New York area. This includes providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to those in need, work with the Boys & Girls Club, and Strikeouts For Troops where he assists wounded war heroes and their families.
Then in 2009, CC took the next step when he and his wife Amber, co-founded their own nonprofit, “PitCCh In Foundation,” which is designed to help raise the confidence and self-esteem of inner city kids in need through various community outreach, sports and educational programs. Over the last few years, this effort has been responsible for numerous programs in the New York Tri-State area and Vallejo, including the distribution of thousands of back to school backpacks for children, redevelopment of the North Vallejo Little League baseball complex, and the raising of funds for the JCC Therapeutic Nursery in New Jersey. More information about CC’s dedication to improving the lives of young people and their communities can be seen at PitCChInFoundation.org.
On the field, CC’s career has been a model of consistency. For the past ten seasons, this five-time All-Star and 2007 Cy Young Award winner, saw his ERA and strikeouts increase from year to year. Where did this man who is now the ace of the most storied franchise in baseball history, the New York Yankees, come from? It all started on the west coast in Vallejo, California. CC was a three-sport athlete – football, basketball and baseball whose ability on the baseball diamond was matched with what he could do on the gridiron where he was an all-conference tight end. In fact, he actually had a signed letter of intent with the University of Hawaii to play football before being selected as the 20th overall pick by the Cleveland Indians in the 1998 MLB Amateur Draft.
It didn’t take long for the higher ups in Cleveland to recognize what they had in their young pitcher. In 2001, barely 20 years old, CC burst onto the Major League scene as the league’s then youngest player and promptly won 17 games while also amassing an impressive 171 strikeouts. His success as a rookie was instrumental in helping the Indians reach the American League Division Series where CC won the only game he pitched. There was no doubt at the end of that season – Sabathia was here to stay. His mature performance and great success was recognized by baseball experts as he finished 2nd in the American League Rookie of the Year voting to the Seattle Mariners’ Japanese import Ichiro Suzuki.
Despite already being a two-time All-Star, Sabathia’s real breakthrough season came in 2006 in which he recorded a career low 3.22 ERA which was good for 3rd in the American League. Most notably, he cut his walk totals by more than 20 from the previous year and by more than 50 compared with his rookie year. With fewer base runners reaching, Sabathia thrived and was able to stay as aggressive as ever on the mound. He delivered more complete games than any other pitcher in the American League, a testament to his ability to stay strong deep into games when his team needed him. With his electric stuff, the Majors took notice in 2006 that he wasn’t just a heat-throwing up and comer anymore but that he was a complete pitcher and more dangerous than ever.
Since his first pitch thrown in 2000 as a 20 year old on a 92 win team, Sabathia has shown steady improvement. And since the first pitch of the 2007 season, Sabathia has been among the top names on all the major pitching leader boards. The 2007 season saw him once again improve his walk rate while also improving his ERA. With more run support than he’d had in previous years, he was able to deliver in the win column and set his career high with 19 wins. Baseball acknowledged his growth and success as he won the American League Cy Young Award and was named the Sporting News’ Pitcher of the Year.
In 2008, baseball saw yet another milestone in CC’s career as he set personal marks for strikeouts, ERA, innings pitched, complete games and shutouts. In an in-season trade that shifted the balance of power in the National League, Sabathia pitched 17 games for the Milwaukee Brewers, leading them to the playoffs and pitching a remarkable seven complete games! Sabathia’s heroics didn’t fail to garner attention where, despite only being in the National League for half a season, he still finished fifth in the National League MVP voting.
The 2009 season saw CC donning the legendary pinstripes of the New York Yankees and he became a sensation in the Big Apple as the team’s workhorse. His American League leading 19 wins came in 34 starts making him the second most active starting pitcher for the season. CC was third among AL hurlers with a 3.37 ERA while opposing batters were only able to average .232 in batting against him. Capping the year for CC was a trip to the American League playoffs where he was ALCS MVP and joining his teammates in defeating the Philadelphia Phillies to become the 2009 Major League Baseball World Champions.
Through the All-Star break in 2010, CC had not let up. He closed with 8 straight wins in 8 consecutive starts to tie the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price for the American League lead in wins at 12. That mark earned CC his fourth All-Star nomination. In the second half of the year, CC accelerated his wins and lead the American League with 21 victories, a new career high.
In 2011, CC came back strong and continued to dominate as the leader of the Yankees staff, pitching 237 innings and going 19-8, with a 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 230 punchouts – second in the American League. He had an exceptional July when he earned Pitcher of the Month honors and was named to the American League All Star Team. On October 31, 2011, the New York Yankees announced that they agreed to a contract extention with CC that will keep him in pinstripes for many years to come.
While the fans CC has touched throughout his career in Cleveland, Milwaukee and now New York have been thrilled to see the gentle giant fulfilling his immense promise as a frontline starter on contending teams, there can be no fan happier than his mom, Margie Sabathia.
At an early age, she instilled the importance of family into CC. With a strong base and belief in himself, CC knew he could accomplish anything. “Be confident” she always told him “but be humble too.” CC knows he’s blessed to have a mother who understands sports and was able to help him appreciate the game, fulfill his God-given ability and above all, display good sportsmanship.
“We talk about everything,” Sabathia says. “She understands the game big-time. I’ve been able to talk about sports with her – all sports – since I was 12.”
When he steps out on the mound, the lessons she taught him as a child ring loudly in his head. What will his legacy be not just on the field? How can he have an impact on people’s lives? That’s the importance of displaying good sportsmanship. It might be tough when you have the talent Sabathia has and the success he has experienced at such a young age but “she always made sure I was humble and appreciated the game.”
His wife Amber, now helps to keep CC happy, healthy and focused. High School sweethearts, who remain happily married to this day, Amber shares in all of his successes and helps him through the highs and lows of the grind of a 162-game season which will hopefully last deep into October for many seasons to come.
As CC lives his dream as a professional athlete, he looks forward to joining Amber in passing on the lessons learned, both on and off the field, to their own family, which include four wonderful children, Carsten, Jaden, Cyia and Carter.