Clemente nominee Bichette grows the game

At 23, shortstop equips young players, gives back to alma mater

September 16th, 2021

As the son of a Major Leaguer, has been given every opportunity and resource to succeed as a ballplayer. That meant being outfitted with new gear, playing on travel teams and attending prospect showcases.

Bichette knows many kids, including some of his own friends and teammates growing up, are not as fortunate. And the shortstop wants to help.

“I have buddies who couldn’t pay for their phone bill, and [were] super-talented players,” Bichette said. “So, basically, just trying to help those kinds of guys get noticed.”

Every year since the Blue Jays drafted him in 2016, Bichette has given back to his former high school (Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, Fla.). He regularly donates cleats and turf shoes, as well as gloves and compression shorts, for kids who need them. He also sponsored multiple players to attend a two-day Perfect Game showcase in Lakeland, Fla.

These are just some of the ways Bichette gives back to his community, and it helps explain why the 23-year-old was nominated for the 2021 Roberto Clemente Award. Each club has a nominee for the annual award, which recognizes the player who best represents the game through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field.

“I have resources now for myself that I want to put to good use,” said Bichette, the son of 14-year outfielder . “I have my faith, as well. That makes me want to help people. But, yeah, I think for me it’s true to who I am. … It’s something that’s close to my heart.”

Some of Bichette’s other contributions include the following:

• Weekly service at a St. Petersburg shelter in recent offseasons, providing food, water, clothing, toiletries, shoes and blankets to the homeless community.

• Gifting care packages of Nike T-shirts and tennis shoes to staffers at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto as a message of thanks for their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Sponsoring a baseball-focused camp for 500-plus children through Perfect Game’s charitable arm, PG Cares. The camp included food, transportation, a full day of baseball instruction and backpacks filled with baseball-related items.

• Hosting 50 Lakewood High School students and staffers for a Blue Jays home game in Dunedin, Fla., this past May. Bichette provided backpacks full of Blue Jays gear, and he spoke with the group before the game about the importance of working hard, being a coachable player and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Lakewood’s baseball coach, Jayce Ganchou, sees how far Bichette’s efforts go. His players love their new cleats and other stuff, of course, but it’s bigger than that. The gear, as well as the sponsorship for showcases and camps, unlocks opportunities.

“It makes their day,” Ganchou said, “or their week, or their year, that this is something that they would’ve never been able to do. … He tries to see what he can get so the kids can have it and that doesn’t become the reason why they don’t play.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of Bichette’s contributions to inner-city Lakewood High School is that they’re ongoing. Five years removed from his time there, he wants to ensure the students can thrive, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

“Not a lot of people go back to where they’re from and help, so I want to do that kind of thing,” Bichette said. “I want to make sure that I remember what it was like to be in that situation, remember how I felt about the kids that weren’t getting noticed, how badly I wanted my teammates to be noticed by people. So just doing my part now.”