April 2023 AOTM: Chris DickersonApr 01, 2023
Welcome back to TWN’s Athlete of the Month! Each month we are highlighting athletes in our network to share what they have accomplished outside of sports, their contribution to the athletic community and more. Make sure to check out our weekly newsletter to learn more about the athlete, what motivates them, and how to contribute to their cause.
Our April Athlete of the Month is Chris Dickerson!
As a high school, college, and professional baseball player, Chris understands what dedication, hard work, and a drive to win mean off and on the field. Dickerson’s MLB career spanned 8 seasons and teams including the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, and Cleveland Indians.
Although playing professional baseball was always Chris’ dream, his passion has always been the environment and trying to find solutions to the growing environmental crisis. This passion led Chris to create Players for the Planet with fellow baseball player Jack Cassel. The huge amounts of plastic cups used at every major league game and in the locker room motivated them to team up to address the devastation of plastics on the environment.
Players for the Planet is an organization that brings professional athletes together to inspire communities and build awareness of the growing environmental crises we face globally by participating in major recycling, conservation, and clean-up programs, as well as sponsoring educational seminars. Today, the organization works with over 21 athletes in more than six sports, such as Robinson Cano, Jay Bruce, Ryan Braun, Amed Rosario, and Nelson Cruz.
Through Players for the Planet, Chris and his team work to connect professional athletes, sports teams, and organizations with actionable opportunities to serve and protect our natural world and the environment.
Chris also serves as the Sports and Sustainability Manager for One Tree Planted, where he oversees the OTP x Players for the Planet collaboration “Playing for Reforestation”. He also evaluates and executes strategic partnerships that align with One Tree Planted’s mission and supports their relationships with current pro athletes and allies to execute programming, engage communities, and put them in the best positions to succeed with the organization.
You can get a glimpse of why Chris’ work matters in this segment about the “Playing for Reforestation” program.
It is his ultimate goal to support the professional sports industry in becoming a leading example of ecologically conscious, environmentally responsible, and sustainable practices worldwide.
CHRIS x TACKLE WHAT'S NEXT
We’re excited to highlight Chris Dickerson as our April Athlete of the Month! We welcomed Chris on the Big League Philanthropist Podcast back in 2019 to discuss his work with Players for the Planet, his passion for the environment, and how he and his team are working to find solutions to the growing environmental crisis.
Chris shared with us his journey to creating the organization, and how it’s grown since he and his co-founder Jack Cassel first launched it. He also spoke on the importance of athletes using their platforms and influence to inspire the next generation of athletes and sports fans, as well as the importance of giving back to their communities and making a difference.
"My goal was to try and make a difference, even if it was a small effort. But once I got to the Major Leagues, I realized I have a platform now, and I can use this to inspire sports fans and young kids to make changes."
Chris explained that since we live in a celebrity-driven society, where people follow along with their heroes, athletes have the unique position and platform to inspire the younger generation.
Chris also spoke at our Athlete Impact Summit in July 2021. During the event, he shared with us the importance of athlete activism, and why athletes should be using their popularity and platform to push for causes matters. He spoke about how athletes can bring awareness to any particular cause that they may be passionate about, but they have to be ready to do the work.
“It’s about action. You can’t just sit on the sideline and throw up a couple posts if you’re not going to make a difference in your own life to help the community. It goes back to that time and commitment.”
Thank you, Chris, for being a part of our Athlete Impact Summit and for all the work you’ve done to support environmental sustainability around the world.
Make sure you check out the Players for the Planet website and learn more about how you can support their efforts.
Chris, the work you’ve done to support athletes in advocating for our planet is incredibly important. We’re proud to recognize you as our April Athlete of the Month.
OUR FULL INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS DICKERSON:
Why did you create Players for the Planet? What interested you in advocating for the environment?
I was fortunate to have grown up in California, one of the world’s most biodiverse places. Growing up, learning about the interconnectivity of all ecosystems gave me a good base for understanding the importance of how we affect the balance in nature... and — living in a city of 12 million people — of how we interact with nature and the effects of our irresponsibility concerning natural resources, pollution, and waste.
As a young athlete, I remember kids with asthma missing practice because of air quality. I remember friends becoming ill from water quality caused by toxic runoff from factories, refineries, and coastal developments. When surfing or at the beach, I would find myself marveling at the amount of trash left behind by beachgoers and how easily it makes its way into the water.
The real perspective shift came when I was sick over the holidays and stayed in on New Year's Eve 2007. I sat on the couch and watched movies all night and one of those films happened to be Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. That documentary changed everything for me and stretched my perspective from my own region to our global impacts. That is when I truly learned the vast consequences that lay before us if we don’t make a conscious effort to change.
What did being an athlete teach you about the work you are doing now?
Sports are universally uniting. No other industry has the same power to emotionally connect and rally diverse masses around common goals and traditions. Athletes are therefore the perfect ambassadors for change, and their playing fields are the perfect venues for inspiring it.
When and how did you decide you were ready to make the transition out of sports? What is the most important thing you did for yourself to start preparing?
I have always been passionate about business, with a particular interest in marketing. My seventh-grade yearbook said that I wanted to work at Nike because I loved their marketing campaigns so much. Through my mother, who worked in corporate communications for Nissan, I was able to see up close the rebrand of a car company in the 90s. I would read my mom's marketing and executive management textbooks she had from continuing her executive education at Cal Berkeley.
When I had major knee surgery in my junior year of high school, I realized that every athlete needs a plan B. Baseball would not last forever and I would have to find something other than sports to pursue. I was lucky to play 15 years of professional baseball, but in the end, it was the injuries and almost a dozen surgeries that told me I had to walk away.
But, technically I still work in sports. Sports will always be a passion of mine and I don't see myself ever doing something that isn't related to sports. I love being able to connect fans, players, and brands to purpose-driven actions with sports as the driver.
What advice do you have for athletes about moving on from sports to their next chapter?
Find great mentors and ask a lot of questions. Take the opportunity to go to conferences and workshops. Professional sports are doing a much better job with transition workshops and programs to help aid in the next chapter of your career. As professional and collegiate athletes, we have unique access to brands and particular operations in sports. It's important to use that time while you're playing to pick the brain of the many qualified resources around you.
How can individuals, athletes or not, help to advocate for and protect the environment?
This is where the educational component is vital. People need to know how simple it is, and often all they need is a roadmap on how to participate. This can be done on such a small scale that everyone is capable of it, given their level of commitment.
One of the greatest and most unfortunate trends today is that people think their efforts won’t be enough. People ask, “Well what difference can one person make? Me committing to this isn’t going to affect anything or solve the whole problem.”
We don’t have to be athletes or celebrities to make a real difference. The most important thing we can do is use our personal power and our Rolodexes to transform our businesses or institutions. We have enormous power together to multiply all of our talents, all of our energy, resources, and influence to solve this problem.