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With Spring Training weeks away, two Cleveland Guardians honor a CMSD commitment



The Cleveland Guardians are on the cusp of a new Major League season with pitchers and catchers slated to report to spring training on February 17th and position players scheduled to follow suit on February 21st.

The pending season didn’t stop Guardian’s pitcher Triston McKenzie and left fielder Steven Kwan from honoring a commitment with a return visit to Valley View Boys’ Leadership Academy. The popular players recently met with about 20 eighth graders, along with principal William Davis and other educators to talk about school, future careers, and personal development.

McKenzie and Kwan are committed participants in CMSD’s True2U mentoring program. The volunteer program is designed to pair students with professional mentors, who routinely engage the young scholars in meaningful conversations about life, planning for the future and overcoming challenges. McKenzie is in his second year of mentoring students at Valley View Boys’ Leadership Academy; Kwan is in his first year.

When the players walked into the classroom late last month, the energy in the room was contagious. The students recognized the celebrity status of the famous visitors but responded to them more like little brothers than starstruck fans. The theme for the two-hour session was decision-making.

Kwan, looking a bit younger than his 25-years, wore a black, hooded sweatshirt and matching pants to the session. He created an immediate connection with the eighth graders.

"I understand my platform, the demographic I represent," said Kwan, who had been looking for a community-driven project to attach his name and time.

 "Before, I didn't really know where to start helping the community. I knew Triston had done this previously and I look up to him as a great friend and role model. I knew it would be an honor for me to tag along with him,” said Kwan, who made his major league debut with the Guardians in 2022.

“My parents were my role models. There were times I struggled with confidence and the need to be affirmed. I realized putting hard work in makes anything possible,” he told the assembled boys.

Penny Forster, Director of Community Impact for the Guardians, started the session by asking the students what high school they planned to attend next fall and exactly how they reached that decision.

Jeremiah, one of the eighth graders in the program, had a ready-made answer. Not only did he praise his True2U mentoring experience, but his entire experience at Valley View.

“Every encounter with Steven and Triston is helpful,” said Jeremiah.

“The experience is mainly about making choices. The mentoring helped me choose the Cleveland School of Architecture and Design at John Hay as the high school I want to attend.”

For his part, McKenzie, who was nominated in 2022 for Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award in recognition of his volunteerism, said he enjoys the mentoring relationship he has developed with Valley View students.

"I like what this program is doing for kids in the CMSD community," said McKenzie.

"We come here to talk about decision-making. We attempt to accomplish this by giving examples of planning decisions that lead to positive outcomes. I'm a professional baseball player, and the boys only see me on TV. It's important for them to know that I'm a human, and I've been in the same situation as them."

True2U is designed to help CMSD eighth graders prepare to make the most of high school as the first step on the path to college or career readiness.

Before McKenzie and Kwan left the school, Principal William Davis presented both players with a powder blue, button-down shirt that displayed Valley Views school’s logo. The shirts are also uniforms, which demonstrates that the players are leaders both on -- and off -- the baseball diamond.