There are a lot of things not to like about the stereotypical baseball player.
Stereotypes seem to only exist in order to judge, so of course people are going to judge the widely-publicized actions of a few guys and make broad generalizations. Whatever your assumptions, I’m sure they’re true of some people, and even some ballplayers. But I’m also certain that there are a few out there who might surprise you, or prove your assumptions to be false.
I’m not writing this because of Dirk Hayhurst’s column, and this is certainly not a continuation of my own piece that followed. This is separate, and just because I want to draw attention to a whole other side of the game, a side that’s not really a part of the game at all.
Professional athletes have power, right or wrong, good or bad. They do. They have a platform. And even just over the last several days, I’ve seen a few guys use that platform in important ways, and that should be commended. These aren’t rich guys or big leaguers with considerable service time – or any time at all – so when I link to a couple of their attempts at raising money for good causes, take that under consideration. And there are more guys doing good deeds than the few I’m about to highlight, but these have just come across my various timelines over the last week so you can extrapolate from there.
Josh Naylor, the top Canadian high schooler heading into next year’s draft, has earned a lot of fantastic opportunities. He’s played on the junior national team since he was 15 years old, he’s played in various capacities at big league parks just this year in Toronto, Miami and Minnesota during the all-star break, and will add more to that tally soon. The young hitter has travelled the world for baseball, and now he’s taking a stand against childhood cancer.
17-year-old Josh Naylor, Canada’s next top draft pick.
Later this summer, after an appearance at Wrigley Field for the Under Armour All-America game, Naylor will participate in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego and as part of the event he is helping to raise funds for pediatric cancer research at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. His personal goal is to raise two thousand dollars and he’s almost halfway there. Here’s more.
Then there’s the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Walk4Hearing, a cause Tyson Gillies is supporting. Recently released by the Philadelphia Phillies organization, the Canadian outfielder told his story on his personal page for the event.
“I was four-and-a-half years old when finally diagnosed with a hearing disability,” Gillies said. “I spent those years struggling to make sense of the world. I was blessed to be able to read lips and had good speech at a young age. Although it was because of this my parents nor doctors could understand my behaviour. I remember it like yesterday, sitting in preschool fighting to hear the PA system from above. Hoping the teacher wouldn’t call on me in class.
“I was such a young kid and didn’t know any better or understand what I was dealing with. Walking the school as a misunderstood outcast without a reason in my mind. There are many people who still don’t understand what we go through every day. I’ve had to overcome a lot in my life and know its just the beginning. Even after hearing aids, I learned that things don’t necessarily get better…but you can.
“Walk with me! Let’s pay it forward…”
His page has more information about where funds go and why the event takes place. Gillies has set a goal of raising five thousand dollars for the cause, and he is almost halfway there.
On Sunday while I was in Buffalo, Bisons closer Bobby Korecky ran the Run Jimmy Run charity 5k road race, in support of the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York. I wrote more about that here.
Then there’s Cody Decker‘s latest. You might have seen the videos the El Paso Chihuahuas utility man produced, directed and edited highlighting two pranks the team pulled on Jeff Francoeur this season, or maybe the video of him hilariously joining the local news to give sports highlights and more, or maybe any number of videos that will have you rolling on the floor laughing (I always wanted to use the longform version of ROTFL), but he also took some time out this week to just talk to a fan. A young man who wanted to discuss the struggles he’s had with his sexual orientation, his mental health, and more. Likely unbeknownst to Decker, that young man blogged about it and posted their direct messages for all to see.
Decker is the same guy who was criticized for making fun of the hearing-impaired throughout the team’s first prank on Francoeur – a stretch – and yet openly supports an organization called No Limits, whose mission is “teaching deaf children the skills to succeed in school and in life through its national theater group and education centers.” His mom, Terri Decker, also sits on the board of directors for the organization as the Senior Vice President and Market Manager. Last year, the baseball-playing Decker attempted to help fundraise and grow awareness for the organization by selling t-shirts.
“No Limits is a charity that helps low-income families with kids who are either deaf or hard of hearing, basically learn how to speak through theatre,” Decker said in a video in support of the cause. “The actual high school graduation rate for people who are born deaf is less than around 20 per cent. So everyone who goes to No Limits who has actually gone to high school is actually not only graduated high school but are actually attending college. And it’s a great program and it’s really special.”
Consider that baseball players are human beings, too. Some will have higher standards than others, some will work harder than others, all will hold different values and make varied choices. They are expected to immediately become adults in the working world when they leave home for professional baseball, some out of high school, others from college with slightly more time to mature. Mistakes are made, some excusable, some not. But sometimes they try to do some good things. And we just don’t hear about that enough.
And before I get back to all things Japan-related in what is sure to be a riveting next post, I’m going to throw some more baseball into this one, from my time in Buffalo covering the Toronto Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate.
There are a few details from Monday night’s scrum with Buffalo Bisons outfielder Kevin Pillar that I couldn’t fit into a specific story anywhere. I asked about this time of year – trade time – and being one of the (three) players that the San Diego Padres asked the Toronto Blue Jays for in exchange for Chase Headley. In case you’re unaware, the New York Yankees got Headley.
An old picture I took of Kevin Pillar during his time with the Lansing Lugnuts in 2012.
“This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in that,” Pillar said. “There are multiple websites out there you can read and check the rumours. I guess it’s kind of an honour to see your name come up in trades. Some people might look at it as a slap in the face that your organization didn’t want you, but it might mean the other team wants you more.
“We’ve all got a job to do here, whether it’s playing in this organization or another organization, and you just go out and play hard because you never know who’s watching.”
I also took my opportunity to ask the outfielder about Kenny Wilson. Wilson is a player I’ve written about on several occasions after first meeting him in the Australian Baseball League. The former Blue Jays prospect was playing for the Canberra Cavalry during the first season I worked for the Brisbane Bandits and I’ve enjoyed writing on him since.
Kenny Wilson, during spring training with the Blue Jays, a few teams ago.
This year has been a whirlwind for Wilson, added to the Blue Jays 40-man roster, then designated for assignment by the only organization he’s ever called home. The 24-year-old was picked up by the Minnesota Twins, then designated by them and Toronto picked him up again. Once again designated, the Oakland Athletics were the latest team to take him on, and early Monday they designated him. I wrote about the madness before it became really crazy here, but also asked Wilson’s former mentor Pillar to shed some light on the situation.
“Kenny’s been in pro ball for a while but he’s not that old,” Pillar said. “If you look at a guy like me, who came into pro ball at 22 years old after four years of college and had that time to go to college and mature, he had to learn a lot of that stuff coming out of high school at 17 years old. He’s still young.
“You can’t teach speed. He’s going to figure out how to hit and he’s going to figure out how to be more consistent in the outfield and he’s still got a lot to offer to other teams.
“It’s definitely not been an easy year for him, being here [in Buffalo], coming up here, going to Double-A, going to New Britain [with the Twins], getting designated. It’s just been a crazy year for him. Hopefully someone is going to pick him up, give him another shot, and hopefully he can just settle in there.”
It should also be noted that Pillar hit a home run in Monday night’s game, a two-run shot to centre field in the first inning against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the Bisons fifth consecutive victory. No one asked him about it during the media scrum so when he was walking out of the room he said, “Hey, so did anybody see my home run tonight? That was a Dan Johnson.” I thought it was funny because first, he called us all out for not talking about his production and second, the reference to Buffalo’s first baseman, currently up with the Blue Jays, who leads the Triple-A squad in long balls on the year. Everyone laughed and pretended like they left out his fifth jack of the year on purpose.
So, none of this had anything to do with Japan. But oyasumi, I’ll get back to that next time.