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More Than an Athlete

February 28th, 2018

By Luke Melms

Baseball players don’t wake up and just wear a jersey.

We are fathers, husbands, sons, businessmen and list could go on and on. We are more than athletes.

Recently, there’s been debate about whether or not athletes should be engaged in issues beyond their sport. Not being engaged with the surrounding culture and community would be a missed opportunity to say the least.

Many of the guys within the Baseball and Business network are originally from South Florida or now live here including myself. As I’ve reflected on what happened right here recently in Parkland, it makes me realize how much of a gift every day is.

Anthony Rizzo went home to support the Parkland community he grew up in and the high school he graduated from. He commented on his trip saying, “I thought the speech was important, to speak with the kids and families that were affected. I’m really proud to see what Parkland is doing and what the kids are doing and speaking out. And trying to make a difference. I stand behind my community…I said there needs to be change, but I don’t know what the change needs to be.”

Only months prior, he won the Roberto Clemente Award which goes to the player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field. Through the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, Children’s Hospital of Chicago is one of many that have been on the receiving end financially and with his time.

There are needs in each of our local communities no matter where we are. There is no one size fits all solution to any of these problems. The only way progress is made is through a group of people coming together making contributions big or small whether it be with time, financial resources or their talents to make a difference.

A great example of this took place last week in Arizona at the Karts and Guitars event put on by Athletes’ Brand which was filled with pro baseball players that featured 16 current players that went head to head in a Mario Kart tournament. The beneficiary of the event was Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock which is a non-profit providing teens with a central place to learn, have fun, and explore their creativity in a supportive and safe environment through music, dance and self expression.

(Top): Liam Hendricks, Hunter Pence, Kevin Shackelford and Brett Phillips duke it out in Mario Kart (Bottom): Athletes’ Brand founder and former baseball player, Kyle Mauch, with 2018 Mario Kart Tournament champion, Kevin Shackelford 

As we know, these years can be pivotal in the trajectory of where one’s life goes. The athletes who participated found a way to use their influence to help get as many guys to the event which was both a way to make a difference and have fun.

No one person can bear the responsibility of bringing change to the problems that exist in each of our communities and country at large but can all do our part whatever that may look like to make an impact. A successful baseball team models what it looks like for a unified group contributing together as one towards a common goal.

For the current players reading this, I remind you of what you already know. Each day you impact your community by the way you represent yourself on the field and how you engage those who may or may not come out to watch you play.

It may be as simple as taking a picture or something as big as starting a foundation.

Whether you are a current or former player, I encourage you to go after what may be stirring in you to make an impact off the field.

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