On July 25th I became a father. All of my friends and family had given me all kinds of advice, but nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when you see your baby for the first time. Becoming a father is certainly something I have been looking forward to, but also something I am terrified of at the same time. Will I be a good enough father for her? Will I give her everything she needs to be successful in this world? Will I be a good role model for her?
The last question made me think to when I was younger and the people I looked up to. I certainly looked up to my parents and sister, who to this day, continue to be the best role models possible. I have always been a big baseball fan, so naturally I would look up to players such as Don Mattingly, Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Abbott, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Paul Molitor and Jim Eisenreich, just to name a few. All of those players succeeded in baseball, but also did so with class. Even Baltimore Orioles fans have to tip their cap to Mattingly, Rivera, and Jeter for the way they conduct themselves on and off the field.
When I was growing up, though, it was a different time than today. The media wasn’t everywhere and these athletes or celebrities weren’t as accessible as they are now. Mattingly didn’t post pictures of himself at a nightclub with a bunch of cute girls on Twitter, and Ripken certainly didn’t tweet about how he was living the high life, sipping on champagne at some strip club.
But that’s what it seems like we hear about all the time nowadays. Johnny Manziel tweets pictures of himself at a casino or getting booted from a football camp for drinking too much, and it seems to be all the media covers. And how much longer does ESPN need to cover the Aaron Hernandez case? Did they really have a truck parked in the street waiting to catch a glimpse of the former New England Patriot? Really?
The good news is that, while the media seems to focus more on the negative, there are plenty of role models out there. Luckily for us, there are plenty of role models over at Camden Yards.
Matt Wieters has established himself as one of the league’s best catchers. The former fifth overall pick from the 2007 draft has already been named to two All Star teams and has won two Gold Gloves in his young career. What you might not know is that Wieters is heavily involved with the community and various charities off the field. Wieters helps out at BARCS, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, which takes in homeless and unwanted animals in Baltimore City. He also supports the Soft Side Campaign, an anti-animal abuse campaign. Wieters also supports the military and the Orioles Military Program, which offers a variety of benefits for the men and women who serve our country. If that wasn’t enough, Wieters also supports OriolesREACH, which invites disadvantaged children to experience the magic of Orioles baseball.
Wieters isn’t the only Oriole deeply involved with helping the community and being a good role model. Chris Davis also helps out where he can. Besides crushing the ball for Baltimore on the field, Davis is involved with OriolesREACH as well as Luke’s Wings, a nonprofit military organization dedicated to the support of current and former service members who have been wounded in battle. Davis is also involved with the Christian Youth Athletics program, and back in May, Davis visited a local high school to help teach kids about the dangers of texting and driving.
Adam Jones is another one. We might know him as the three-time All Star center fielder for Baltimore who also has three Gold Gloves under his belt and finished sixth in the 2012 MVP voting. What you might now know about him is that he is very heavily involved with the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA of Maryland, as well as the OriolesREACH program. Jones also spends a lot of time with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides comprehensive scholarships and support to minority students enrolled at institutions of higher education. As if he had any other free time, Jones also works with Reviving Baseball in the Inner City, a Major League Baseball initiative whose mission is to increase urban and inner city youth interest and participation in baseball and softball.
What’s amazing to me is that the Orioles have so many players on their roster doing good things that you might not hear about on the news. Another example of a great role model is Nick Markakis, the Gold Glove right fielder for the O’s. Like Jones, Markakis is also involved with the Boys & Girls Club and OriolesREACH program, and like Wieters, he also is involved with the Orioles Military Program. Markakis also helps out with Casey Cares, an uplifting program with a special focus on critically ill children and their families. He spends time with Baltimore City Schools and also the Right Side Foundation, a charity he and his wife started to help improve the lives of distressed children throughout the state of Maryland. Sounds like a role model to me.
The list continues. Brian Roberts is another player who spends a lot of his time helping out the community. Roberts has been with the Orioles since being drafted by them in the first round of the 1999 draft and has helped out on and off the field. The two-time All Star volunteers quite a bit at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital, a place he holds dear to his heart. When he was five years old, Roberts had open heart surgery to repair an atrial septil defect, so he understands what these children go through. Roberts also works with the Helping Up Mission which provides hope to the poor and homeless in Baltimore.
Pitchers Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson also chip in with the community as well. Matusz helps out Markakis with Casey Cares, and he also spends time with the Orioles Military Program as well as OriolesREACH.
When he’s not leading the league in saves, Johnson helps out with the Orioles Military Program as well as the Challenger League of Maryland, a little league which enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges to enjoy the game of baseball. JJ also works with the Miracle League of Manasota, an organization dedicated to providing an opportunity for all children to play baseball regardless of their ability.
Nate McLouth also helps out in the community by participating with BARCS, the Soft Side Campaign, and OriolesREACH. Like Markakis, pitcher Jason Hammel helps out with Baltimore City Schools as well as OriolesREACH. Darren O’Day works with Luke’s Wings and also the Orioles Military Program. Tommy Hunter, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta all work with the Orioles Military Program and OriolesREACH as well. Outfielder Chris Dickerson founded Players for the Planet along with Jack Cassel to help educate all involved in youth, amateur, and professional sports on how best to adopt environmental practices that will preserve the playing fields and stadiums where we all enjoy playing and watching sports.
When he is not leading the Orioles on the field, manager Buck Showalter also spends time with the Soft Side Campaign as well as KidsPeace, which is a private charity dedicated to serving the behavioral and mental health needs of children, preadolescents, and teens. Even the wives of the Orioles help out with the Maryland Food Bank.
So to all of us parents out there, there is hope! Obviously we hope we can be the best role models for our children, but the facts are that they will also look to other places for guidance, and the Orioles can be a proud franchise knowing that not only do they have several great ballplayers on their club, but they also—most importantly—have a lot of good men on their team. They make it easier for this proud father to sleep at night.
Special thanks to Amanda Sarver from the Baltimore Orioles for helping to pull this information together.
by Andy Mindzak