Founded in 2014 by professional baseball coach James Vilade, the Keeper of The Game Foundation supports kids and young adults with special needs and disabilities in and around baseball. The organization also promotes servant leadership among players, coaches, teams and organizations.
At the front end of Vilade’s coaching career, Vilade got to meet one of his wife’s kindergarten students “Hollis” who became one of the inspirations for this foundation. Hollis like many young kids dreamed of playing Major League Baseball, he shared that dream with Vilade and the story became one of the most powerful stories in sports. This meeting with Hollis on the Otis Brown Elementary School playground at recess led to Vilade wanting to do as much as he could for all kids who dream of playing baseball at any level.
In 2008 one of Vilade’s best friends passed away, John Robert “Red” Murff. Red and Vilade were close friends and after his passing, Red’s wife Sara asked James to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. Red is known in baseball as the scout that signed Nolan Ryan. Prior to delivering the eulogy one of Vilades close friends Mike Basso, also a friend of Red’s, encouraged James to be strong. Basso told Vilade to embrace what Red had taught him. At the end of the conversation Basso reinforced that Red had taught Vilade along with many others how to be a “Keeper of The Game”.
That same year Vilade helped start the foundation Diamond Dreams with Scott and Susan Coolbaugh. Diamond Dreams was started to honor the life of Mike Coolbaugh who on July 22, 2007 was killed on the field in a AA baseball game while coaching for the Colorado Rockies affiliate the Tulsa Drillers. Vilade approached the Coolbaughs with the concept of “Keeper of The Game” to help honor the life of Mike Coolbaugh.
Vilade has been working in the baseball community with a focus on serving kids and young adults with disabilities since 1997. Passion for sharing the game, serving the community and giving back to those who love the game led to the start of the Keeper of The Game Foundation.