[Q] You've been active in giving back to the community long before you established the 60 Feet 6 Foundation in 2015, especially with the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation. Tell us how you got started.
[A] When I joined the Rangers, there were three players who really inspired me to get actively involved with the community: Eddie Gordato, Michael Young and Ian Kinsler. Those guys showed and taught me so much not only on the field, but also off the field. Of course, being professional athletes they were extremely focused when they put on their uniforms, but, when the game was over, they were just as focused on giving back to the community. If they had a great game or a not-so-great game it didn't matter to them when it was time to give back. They put their performance behind them and just concentrated on helping others. Their selfless attitude and actions had a profound effect on me. It helped put things into the proper perspective. Baseball is a great game and it's a lot of fun, but there are more important things in the world than striking someone out.
[Q] Why start your own Foundation? Why not just keep on doing what you were doing, making financial donations and lending time to help raise awareness for other organizations?
[A] Well, first off, I will always do everything I can to help others no matter if it's through 60 Feet 6, the Texas Rangers, or one of my friend's or teammate's foundations that's dedicated to helping improve the community. The Rangers Baseball Foundation gives back to a wide variety of organizations that help kids who are less fortunate. I love being a part of that because I get to do so much, from hospital visits to playing catch at Globe Life Park with the kids who come out for the day. I make sure I’m available for every event. No matter how hectic my schedule might be, I rearrange things so that I won’t miss anything. When the two veteran community leaders left, Young and Kinsler, I told Taunee Taylor, from the Rangers Foundation, that I want to be THAT guy, the guy who is always available to lend a hand and make an appearance. I never want to say no to anything. But some of my off the field experiences, like the opportunity to get close to Briggs Berry, solidified my desire to start the 60 Feet 6 Foundation so that I could focus on the areas that mattered most to me. Briggs was such an amazing person, so full of optimism and compassion. Even when he was sick he was always thinking about others.
Watching what Briggs and his family went through was heartbreaking and it made me more determined than ever to focus my time and energies on the areas that meant a lot to me personally.
[Q] At what point did you know that you wanted to help affect a change in the community, to help others that are less fortunate?
[A] It's just always been that way and it all starts with my mom and dad and growing up in Newark, Ohio. They were and still are my role models because they've always been loving, caring people.
They instilled in me a strong work ethic and a passion to help others.
When you see your parents doing things that make a difference in people's lives, it makes it easier to follow their example.
My mom always said I was a big-hearted person, even when I was little. I like to make sure that my friends and family are taken care of before I think about my needs. But, again, I think that can be traced to my childhood because my mom and dad were like that, always looking out for others before thinking about themselves.
[Q] How important was religion when you were growing up?
[A] We were certainly a Christian family, but I don't know that we would have met the strict definition of "dedicated" church goers. I mean, sometimes we would go every week and then sometimes because of games or travel we'd miss a week or two here and there. But religion and faith have always been an important part of my life. I would say that when I went to Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., is when things really turned around for me.
The very first day of practice at Wallace, before we took the field, we knelt down in prayer. I thought that was great, but also a little different because we didn’t do that back in Ohio. One of my teammates at Wallace, Jamie Manning, kept after me to lead the prayer group one day. I kept pushing it off and pushing it off because I was a little nervous about public speaking, even though there were only just the six pitchers in the group. Thanks to Jamie, I finally worked up the nerve to do it and afterwards everyone was so supportive and told me what a great job I did. It was a tremendous feeling and ever since then I’ve continued to grow in my faith and get closer to God.
[Q] What are your short-term goals for the 60 Feet 6 Foundation?
[A] Our short-term goal is to do better than the previous year, to grow stronger and stronger. To me, that will mean we’re headed in the right direction. The more money we can raise, the more we can donate to the local organizations that are committed to helping others and having a positive impact on their communities.