Dec. 14, 2015
By Sean Tenaglia `16
The mustache holds a special place in the history of baseball. Some of the sport's iconic heroes - including Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers, Mike Schmidt and Wade Boggs - have rocked the infamous look.
For the University of Notre Dame baseball team, the mustache represents so much more than a unique facial hairstyle. This year, the Irish joined the Movember Foundation in supporting men's health issues by growing out `staches to raise awareness during the month of November.
Since 2003, the Foundation has raised over $650 million and funded over 1,000 projects focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, poor mental health and physical inactivity. Every November, the Foundation transforms the month to "Movember," encouraging men to grow out some facial hair on their upper lip to raise funds and awareness for these important issues.
Fans: Our guys are growing staches all #Movember to raise money for men's health!
-- Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) November 5, 2015
This October, while touring the country to find groups to participate in this year's campaign, the Foundation contacted @NDBaseball's very own Kyle Richardson. The enthusiastic senior outfielder did not hesitate to propose the idea to his teammates.
"I remember how successful our `Bald & The Beautiful' campaign was my sophomore year," Richardson said. "I think we raised about $18,000. The cool thing about that was that it's actually a physical representation of the campaign you are supporting. You have a bald head. In the case of Movember, it works the same way. You grow a mustache to show your involvement.
"I thought it was something a lot of us could get behind. A lot of us have done the `No Shave November' thing in the past without doing it for a reason, so having a reason to grow out a mustache kind of made it a fun team activity for us. When I mentioned it to the guys, a lot of them got really excited to have the opportunity to support men's health."
What began as a simple idea transformed into an impressive campaign, as the Irish raised $35,572 through November. The team finished 24th overall on the national team leaderboard, which was the highest ranking for any collegiate fundraising team. Additionally, the team ranked 47th overall globally, while freshman infielder Jake Singer placed 17th in the United States and 44th globally on the individual leaderboard with an incredible $13,600 raised.
ND has cracked the 20K mark & we aren't even halfway through #Movember!
-- Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) November 12, 2015
While astonished at their fundraising success, Richardson believed that his team was more than capable of raising awareness through their campaign.
"I don't know if we really envisioned having this much success," Richardson said. "Our number one goal was to raise awareness and get out there to tell people about these men's health issues because they just don't get enough publicity. I remember as we began, I was getting excited with our first thousand dollars raised, and then our second thousand dollars. All of a sudden, I realized we were really taking off with it.
"As I watched guys get behind it and buy in, it really took off. We were able to get out there and spread the message across the country. We have the luxury of having our roster come from all over the country, so we were able to reach out to different groups of people. As we got the momentum, people saw that we could do something special here."
ND has rounded 3rd & heading for home in its quest to raise money for men's health!
-- Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) November 23, 2015
Irish head coach Mik Aoki took great pride in his team's willingness to support such an important cause. While he did not spearhead the campaign, Aoki looked on with gratification as he watched his players raise so much awareness and funds.
"We always talk about our concept of `Blue Collar, Gold Standard,' and this plays right into it," Aoki said. "We focus on how we handle ourselves in the Notre Dame and communities, but we're also part of the community of humanity. This is a phenomenal way to express that.
"I have to tip my hat to Kyle for taking this thing and running with it. It's right in line with what we talk to our players about that sets us apart from other schools. We try to find personal development by using the skills and talents we have, not just for ourselves, but for others in the community at large."
Richardson echoed his coach's sentiment, saying that the decision to take part in the Movember campaign reflected one of the team's four pillars of success: excellence in the community.
Even though November is over, #Movember isn't. Continue to donate until Wednesday!
-- Notre Dame Baseball (@NDBaseball) December 7, 2015
"In addition to success on the field, success in our training and success in the classroom, we also strive for success in the community," the Park Ridge, Illinois native said. "This really shows how successful we can be in the community, using our platform as Notre Dame baseball players to really do a lot of good. We've done that with a lot of organizations, but this one I think we really took personally.
"Our relentless approach was impressive. We had about a 40-day window to raise funds for this cause and they came in every single day. I think it really just speaks to the culture of this program. Not only are we going to get after it on the baseball field, but we're going to get after it in so many other areas."
The senior outfielder attributed the team's fundraising success to the personal nature of the issues supported by the Movember Foundation.
"Just the stats, that one in seven men get diagnosed with prostate cancer, on a team of 35 guys, that's like five of your brothers," Richardson said. "We love each other and we are a team. When you take that mentality and you apply it to us, people really get behind it and take it personally.
"We're all sons, we're all grandsons and we all have relatives who could very well be affected by prostate or testicular cancer. The fact that breast cancer does such a great job raising awareness is something that the Movember Foundation can model to get that publicity. These issues are significant and they affect all men at large."
Aoki noted that the campaign's success reflects his team's commitment to important issues beyond the game of baseball.
"It makes me really proud of them," Aoki said. "The things that we're trying to teach here at Notre Dame are setting in, and this is proof of that. They took an idea and made it their own. Hopefully, it can positively affect a lot of people, and the awareness we raised through our site and social media hopefully will have an impact and open the conversation about it."
As the Irish prepare for the rapidly approaching 2016 campaign, Richardson hopes that the team's success on the Movember leaderboard is a sign of good things to come.
"It's always good to be the top collegiate program. I think that's a good start for this season," he said with a smile.
To make a donation or learn more about the Movember Foundation, please visit https://us.movember.com/?home.