Dellucci's Louisiana Lagniappe 22 bracelets can be purchased for $2 each on his website. He has done a tremendous job in trying to aid his home state and for that he must be applauded. I wish there could be more David Dellucci's around MLB.
Tribe outfielder determined to get aid to where it's needed most
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- The donations have been overwhelming, but the recovery has been slow for the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
And that's where Indians left fielder David Dellucci's frustration lies.
As a Major League ballplayer from Baton Rouge, La., Dellucci found himself in a position to do a tremendous amount of good for his home state and the other areas battered by the two storms in August and September of 2005.
Through his charity, the Catch 22 for Blue Foundation (www.catch22forblue.org), Dellucci helped raise nearly $100,000 for various charities and needy causes in the Gulf region.
But while driving through Louisiana this past offseason, Dellucci often found himself wondering whether the generosity shown toward the area is being used constructively.
"Some areas are really moving forward and really rebuilding," he said. "But some areas are moving very slowly. You would think they would be further along in the rebuilding process than they are. I think there's a block in between what is being donated from other citizens around the country and what is actually filtering into the needy people down there."
Dellucci has tried to do his part to ensure the money he raised is spent wisely.
"Nowadays, you don't know exactly where your money is headed," he said. "I wanted the people who donated money to feel confident that it was all going where I advertised it to be going."
For Dellucci, donations were not hard to come by.
In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, he wrote a check to the American Red Cross, and the Rangers -- his team at the time -- matched and doubled it.
Dellucci autographed some baseballs, and the team sold them during a home game for $22 a piece. They were gone by the first pitch.
And when Dellucci went on the field to stretch, fans and stadium workers were trying to hand him checks, on the spot.
"All game I'm thinking, 'I've got to do something,'" Dellucci recalled. "I called my agent that night and said, 'We need to put together a foundation to take this money and distribute it where I see fit.' Then I went out during the next game and was trying to think of ways to raise money. I was playing left field and coming up with ideas."
Dellucci's idea? Rubber bracelets, similar to Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" fundraiser. The 40,000 bracelets sold by Dellucci and the Rangers read "Louisiana Lagniappe," which is a south Louisiana term meaning "to give a little extra."
"In other words, if you go to Louisiana to a jazz or blues festival, you go down there and eat the food and love the food, so you leave with a little more than expected," Dellucci said. "If you go to a doughnut shop and ask for a dozen doughnuts and they give you 13, that's lagniappe."
Keeping with the spirit of the phrase, Dellucci and his newly formed charity kept giving. And while New Orleans got the majority of the national attention in the wake of the natural disasters, Dellucci knew the ripple effects of the storms lingered elsewhere.
Catch 22 for Blue teamed up with the Marines and the Toys for Tots program to donate 6,000 pounds of toys to children in Port Arthur, Texas, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Rita.
Dellucci bought 25 Thanksgiving meals for evacuees living in the Dallas area.
He made a donation to the Louisiana State Troopers Association, which saw many of its members unable to help repair their homes and help their families because they had to stand guard in New Orleans.
He bought new Braille books for the University of New Orleans' School for the Visually Impaired, which lost all its supplies in the floods.
He helped out an evacuee family in St. Louis with seven children, three of whom had Down Syndrome.
And when he read a story in People magazine about Sandra LaDay, who was taking care of 400 familes in Port Arthur, despite her own financial struggles, he cut a check for her charity, People Supporting People.
"She was living in a gas station," Dellucci said of LaDay. "Someone had given her a mattress. I knew I had to help this woman who helped people in her town."
Dellucci personally oversaw where each dollar raised by his charity went, because he knew, sadly, that charity money is not always appropriated properly.
"I wanted to make it a point where I wasn't giving money to people who just wanted handouts," he said. "I had to feel comfortable that they were doing their best to get by further down the line. I didn't want hard-earned money to be wasted."
Gauging the situation in Louisiana today, Dellucci is upset with the way some residents have resisted opportunities to get their lives back in order. He said many people in the region have developed a learned helplessness.
"There are job openings everywhere," he said. "That is a fact. There have been reports of construction companies going into shelters right after the storm and offering to take people out of those shelters and giving them jobs and getting them off on the right foot. And in many cases, only a few hands have gone up.
"If you don't have a job and you're still waiting for handout money, then shame on you, because there are plenty of jobs -- if not in the New Orleans area, then in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas."
This past offseason, Dellucci shifted the focus of Catch 22 for Blue to Louisiana-bred troops overseas. With the money left over from the donations received in late 2005, he boxed up some homegrown care packages for the troops.
"There are soldiers from the Louisiana area whose houses were damaged, but yet they are not able to do anything because they are serving the country right now," he said. "My charity's focus is on helping them."
Dellucci knows people around the country might still be inclined to help the Gulf region get back on its feet, but he hopes they'll be as judicious with where their money goes as he has been. He recommends donating to charities whose efforts include boosting the area's recreational needs.
"The state has received a ton of federal money for rebuilding down there," he said. "The issue now is that there are some groups that have been slow in getting that money out."
And the ensuing slow recovery is disheartening for Dellucci and all those who hold Louisiana near and dear to their heart.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.