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Baseball/Sports Yield Life's Lessons

Cardinals Manager Looks Forward To New Redbird Season And New App Developed With Wife

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol's life revolves around sports on and off the diamond. 

Of course, he admires various public and group elements of The Lou, but one recent initiative undertaken with his wife, Amber, remains personal to his core values. When Oli was a coach in the Cardinals’ minor league system in 2013, he and Amber went on a weeklong mission to an orphanage in Central America. As devout Christians, they saw dire needs there, which Amber says ignited their desire to build something sustainable to give back to the next generation. They eventually launched a new program through an artificial intelligence-driven app to raise charitable funds while also helping youths, in general, to excel in life and sports.

"Shortly after a mission trip we took to poverty-stricken areas of Guatemala, we got this idea aimed at helping aspiring youth, not only in sports but in every day. Naturally, we started with baseball but it quickly expanded into various sports," recalls Amber. 

Oli says it was the most poverty they'd ever seen firsthand, and it changed the way they approached their own lives and finances. "There was a village of kids who were eating only one meal every three days."

Amber suggested that she and Oli start a company through which he would provide baseball lessons to young players and 50% of the revenue would go to a feeding center in Guatemala. So they did. Based on the initial approach, they were able to write a check to the orphanage that allowed the youth to eat three meals a day for about six or seven months. Amber decided unequivocally that wasn't enough. 

"Our hearts started with international interests. But the more we thought about it, we realized that we had helpful sports-related information that could help kids of all ages in lifelong ways. Tips about perseverance, principles, work ethic and mental approaches to challenges," says Amber, who developed a business strategy for what became the app so that youths could access lessons that would figuratively open doors for them. 

The Marmols' commitment and creativity led to co-founding Versus (VS), a new sports edtech platform combining world-class athletes and conversational video artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver video content that provides lessons to young athletes. The app was launched in August 2022. Additional co-founders were Mike Shildt, former manager of the Cardinals, and Trey Nielsen, former professional baseball player. 

Amber says, "We wanted to help elevate and empower kids in life. That's what gets us excited about it."

VS includes well-known baseball names, including Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, as well as St. Louis Cardinals' stars Albert Pujols and Adam Wainwright. Among those who provide softball instruction and tips on the app are Jennie Finch and Jessica Mendoza.

The app now includes soccer-based tips as well, from Olympians and champions, such as Tyler Adams, Tim Howard, Kelley O’Hara, Ashlyn Harris, Ali Krieger and David Copeland-Smith.

Each of the professional athletes featured on VS were asked at least 600 questions on a spectrum of topics. Users then may ask questions and receive answers in real-time in conversational AI technology built by StoryFile. It even includes ideas about how to perform under pressure and deal with social or peer issues. 

Future content on VS is expected to cover related, performance-optimizing factors, such as nutrition, fitness recovery and sleep regimens. 

To locate this app, visit Apple's online App Store and locate Versus Interactive/Sports Performance Training. The VS course content includes a three-day free trial. The cost of an annual membership to VS is $199, however, it's currently being offered at $129 for a limited time. Customers have unlimited access to all courses and questions, along with behind-the-scenes content. 

VS contributes 10% of the topline revenue to charitable organizations that focus on development and access for underserved youth around the United States.

"We hope and want youths who access the app to learn that succeeding in life, as it is in sports, is a process. It's OK to fail during that process because people that they admire also have done that; it's just part of reaching goals," says Amber.

"The concept of having staying power, or tenacity, is especially important in today's social media environment. We want youths to know not to be afraid of their personal journeys."

What's In Store For The 2023 Redbirds Season?

Oliver was promoted from bench coach in 2022 to become the youngest current manager in major league baseball at age 35 -- five years younger than the next-youngest manager, in fact. He infused a variety of experiences to now leading the team, based on being the Cardinals' first base coach as of the 2017 season. Before the 2019 season, the Cardinals shifted him to bench coach. On Oct. 25, 2021, he was promoted to manager of the Cardinals.

As one of the nation's oldest and most successful professional baseball clubs, Oli leads a Cardinals' roster of 12 coaches, who cover game planning, hitting, pitching, the bench, the bases and the bullpen. 

At press time, the Cardinals were already doing well at spring training in Jupiter, Fla.

"I'm looking forward to this upcoming baseball season because the team and coaches have really nice chemistry and dynamics already," says Oli. 

As 11-Time World Series Champions, the Cardinal's 2023 season spans March 30 through Oct. 1. 

Versus (VS) is a revolutionary digital learning app that gives athletes everywhere access to learning from today’s leading sports stars. Versus' exclusive content helps users with mindsets, practice/training routines and overcoming adversity. Using next-generation conversational AI technology, VS is the first edtech platform to give users the ability to ask questions and receive responses from a roster of expert athletes.

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