Samardzija’s Make Big League Contribution
Posted on 18 February, 2011 by Mike Torosian
September 3, 2010 marked a major point for the Serbian Baseball Development Association. This is the date in which the SBDA received its first major donation since its incorporation earlier this summer. A notable duo of Serbian-American brothers, Jeff and Sam Samardzija, sent in the huge donation of goods from Under Armour. The donation included multiple sets of catcher’s gear, several sets of youth uniforms in various colors, coaching jackets and shirts as well as five boxes full of equipment bags for the kids.
The contribution came after the Samardzija brothers were introduced to the SBDA in early August. From the date of introduction to the organization both Jeff and Sam expressed their sincere interest in helping the SBDA in anyway possible. With Jeff being in season still (boasting an 11-3 record with over 105 innings pitched and 97 strikeouts for Triple-A Iowa) and it being Sam’s busy time of the year, wont allow it? we never expected a donation this soon, especially not of this magnitude.
Aside from the material donation, Jeff and Sam’s athletic expertise and willingness to help further the mission of the SBDA is massive. Jeff was a standout two-sport athlete at Notre Dame in baseball and football. Having had the option of being drafted to either the NFL or MLB, Jeff chose baseball (fortunate for us!) and was drafted by none other than the Chicago Cubs. The elder Samardzija, Sam, was also a two-sport (baseball and football) star and became an MLB sports agent after Indiana University. Hopefully, having the Samardzija’s behind the SBDA will prove to help the growth of the SBDA supporter and donor base.
We were fortunate enough to have a quick Q & A with Jeff and Sam and here’s what they had to say:
SBDA: What was your initial reaction when hearing about the presence of baseball in Serbia?
J & S: I guess we weren’t totally surprised. We understand baseball is a worldwide sport, and figured it was played a little bit in Serbia. However we kind of just assumed it was no different than cricket being played in the US. We all know about it, just isn’t too common of a sport here in the states.
SBDA: Are you guy’s excited/hopeful about the growth of the sport in the country of your ancestors?
Jeff: We absolutely are. If we can have any influence on a sport that is so important to me, in a country where the Samardzija name originated, I don’t think it gets any better than that.
Sam: I think excited would be an understatement. Jeff and I have always been proud and interested in our heritage. We have always wanted to give back in some way, and make our parents/grandparents/great grandparents proud.
SBDA: (For Jeff) What made you pick baseball over football after Notre Dame?
Jeff: Obviously both sports were very close to my heart, and I had a great passion to play both at the highest level possible. Though at the same time I felt like I owed 100% to baseball and the Chicago Cubs. I wanted to put everything I had into it, and really enjoy what I was doing every day. Whether that was shagging BP, or going out there every 5th day and competing, baseball was the right fit.
SBDA: If you could give any advice to the kids in Serbia about baseball (regarding work ethic, determination, etc.) what would it be?
Jeff: With baseball it doesn’t matter where you come from, how big you are, your economic background, or what part of the world you live in…anything is possible. Heck we’re from a small town in Indiana and somehow made it to where we are today. If you stay positive, remember that it is a game and you’re supposed to be having fun, you’ll be successful.
Sam: I think if you ask anyone who works in the baseball industry as a player or a professional, they had some rough times before they had success. Though what is common amongst all of them is that they stayed the course and continued to gut it out, and it paid off in the end. As Jeff said, if you were to ask us 20 years ago if we would be where we are today, we would have laughed. Back then our main concern was having fun, and seeing who could throw more balls into the garbage can behind home plate from the outfield!
SBDA: If Serbia were to one day make it to the World Baseball Classic, would you consider playing?
Jeff: (chuckles) Tough question, never thought about that one!
Sam: You don’t want me, trust me my playing days are long gone. Though throwing 87 mph at the local state fair last week might get me signed up right?
SBDA: Now that you are aware of baseball in Serbia will you guys be keeping up on the progress being made?
Jeff: Without a doubt. Hopefully in the next couple years I’ll start to see some other 10 letter last names with “Z’s” and “J’s” in it playing in the big leagues. NBA is represented well, hopefully MLB is close behind.
Sam: I think we owe it to the kids and young players to keep track of what’s going on. I have a friend in Shane Victorino of the Phillies who is originally from Hawaii. I remember a couple years back when Hawaii made it to the Little League World Series, Shane made a special phone call to their team congratulating them and wishing them the best. All the kids were stoked. I always thought that was a pretty special thing of Shane to do, and how positively it affected their young lives. Hopefully one day Jeff can do that for a group of Serbian youngsters.
SBDA: What were the main factors in choosing to make such a generous donation to the SBDA?
Jeff: When Sammy (brother, Sam Samardzija) approached me that the SBDA actually existed and that they wanted us to help, from there it was a no-brainer. For me it really covered two very important things in my life, my family history and the game of baseball. If this first step in helping the SBDA helped just one kid in Serbia, then I’m all in.
Sam: As you get older you think about all the people who affected you positively in some way throughout your life. Whether it’s family, friends, coworker, your mother, or people in the community. You would hope that one day you would have the opportunity to give back and help someone else out the same way. There was no question the SBDA was our opportunity.
SBDA: Do you hope that more Serbian-Americans and/or baseball enthusiasts get involved to help make the SBDA a reliable source of help to Serbian youth baseball?
Jeff: Sure, I hope people who love the game of baseball or come from Serbian heritage find a way to give back. Hopefully people can look to help out other independent baseball associations as well, not just the SBDA. A lot of these programs need the help.
Sam: I really do. If everyone could see the videos and photos that we’ve seen of the kids simply loving the game of baseball, I think everyone would kick in. For all of us who grew up playing the game in our backyard or at the local overgrown dirt field, this is what baseball is all about.
SBDA: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up and now who is?
Jeff: Andrew Dawson, and Mark DeRosa.
Sam: David Justice, and Jayson Werth.
SBDA: What is your favorite Serbian dish?
The donation made by the Samardzija’s in cooperation with Under Armour is a great launching point for the SBDA. This donation will help outfit the 6 current youth teams with proper gear to compete amongst each other as well as international competition. We hope that the organization and growth of youth baseball with the assistance of the SBDA will allow more children to take part of this great game. This goal will be realized much sooner with the continued help of great donors such as Jeff and Sam Samardzija.