We’re Talking Baseball—and Community—With Fred Rivera

By United Way of King County, on March 20, 2023 | In Emerging Leaders 365, Events, News

This blog post was written by Taylor Roberson, United Way of King County marketing program manager.

United Way of King County’s Speaker Series is designed for young professionals to meet leaders in the community as part of our Emerging Leaders 365 giving community. Recently, our Speaker Series made its way to Steelheads Alley, an expansive restaurant and entertainment venue across the street from the T-Mobile Park. Young leaders got a chance to hang out with Fred Rivera, Mariners executive vice president and general counsel and United Way of King County board member.

It’s not surprising that many of the young leaders had baseball questions, considering the Mariners reached the playoffs last season for the first time since 2001.

How’s spring training going?

Rivera: “Julio Rodriguez [American League Rookie of the Year] and Jarred Kelenic [Mariners’ outfielder] are looking GREAT!”

What can we expect from the All-Star Week [the annual mid-season contest and show hosted in Seattle this year]?

Rivera: “Lots of family-friendly and free events!”

Yet there were also queries about the organization’s relationship to the community, as well as Rivera’s work with United Way through Home Base, a rental assistance program that Rivera and the Mariners were instrumental in launching to help people facing eviction. Through Home Base, United Way has churned out about $1 million a week in rental assistance—the equivalent of about 85 households each receiving nine months of back rent and three months of future rent.

Emerging Leaders listening to Fred Rivera’s convo

Asked what he has learned from the process of coalition building through projects like Home Base or building Steelheads Alley, Rivera replied: “Maintain the vision even when others don’t see it yet—don’t be exclusively focused on how much money will be made, maintain the value of these projects, like community building, creating space to gather, elevate BIPOC stories, create relationships between groups like King County Bar Association and United Way.”

Rivera said that Steelheads Alley has given the Mariners opportunity to amplify the history of the Seattle Steelheads, an all-Black baseball team from the 1940s that played at such venues as the old Sick’s Stadium in South Seattle. He added that the Mariners are working to address exclusion of urban children of color in baseball by establishing leagues throughout the city.

Asked how do the Mariners make sure they are including voices of historically marginalized communities without tokenizing them, Rivera replied that the Mariners have built strong relationships with groups such as Baseball Beyond Borders, a Kent-based program that uses sports to help students succeed on and off the field. Rivera said Baseball Beyond Borders not only informs the Mariners’ strategy and community work but is active in the team’s decision regarding the community.

United Way’s event as Steelheads Alley was a grand slam!

Baseball Beyond Borders is also a member of the Black Community Building Collective, a coalition of 15 Black-led organizations brought together by United Way of King County to build relationships and form strategies that impact the Black community.

The United Way Speaker Series event with Rivera was festive and engaging, complete with scrumptious appetizers and a silent auction. It’s one of many we feature regularly for our giving communities, which give donors opportunities to connect with other like-minded people and learn about the issues facing our community. Our Emerging Leaders 365 community comprises donors who give $1 a day ($365 annually) or more to launch a year of impact. To learn more about United Way’s giving communities, click here.


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