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Archer shares life insights through Play Ball

Pirates star hosts event at MLB Youth Academy in California
@SarahWexler32
December 7, 2019

COMPTON, Calif. -- Chris Archer may have been far from home, but that didn’t stop him from looking for ways to make a difference. The Pirates right-hander, who lives in North Carolina but is spending his offseason training in California, reached out to Major League Baseball seeking local youth-oriented events

COMPTON, Calif. -- Chris Archer may have been far from home, but that didn’t stop him from looking for ways to make a difference.

The Pirates right-hander, who lives in North Carolina but is spending his offseason training in California, reached out to Major League Baseball seeking local youth-oriented events where he could volunteer his time. The final Play Ball event of the year, which took place on Saturday at the MLB Youth Academy in Compton, fit that bill perfectly.

Archer was on hand as nearly 275 children, ages 4-13, took part in free baseball- and softball-focused activities, rotating between five different stations: a home run derby, bat and ball games and baserunning, agility and fielding drills. Archer went from station to station, making sure to visit with every group.

“Bouncing around, interacting, engaging, having fun,” Archer said. “Showing these kids I’m just a normal human being who likes to have fun playing this game and hopefully, they can play and have fun themselves.”

For the kids in attendance, Archer’s presence was a thrill.

“Seeing Chris Archer here was a really good experience, because it shows that the Academy really wants everyone to be a part of it,” said Isabella Leon, 15, a softball player who was serving as an instructor on Saturday. “They get great people to come and teach young kids, and I think that it’s a great thing to do for the community.”

Archer’s passion for youth involvement in sports has been a constant throughout his professional career. Since first partnering with national nonprofit Good Sports in 2012, his first season in the Majors, Archer has donated more than $500,000 worth of equipment. His own nonprofit organization -- the Archway Foundation, established in '13 -- assists local youth in his hometown of Clayton, N.C., with access to meals, school supplies and other resources. The well-rounded curriculum of the Youth Academy is consistent with those values.

“I feel like the education aspect [at the Youth Academy] is the most important,” Archer said. “They have SAT prep, and they’re really focused on these kids getting their education squared away, which is gonna take them much further than baseball. But the facilities here are beautiful, and if they are good at baseball and they do love the game, they have a great outlet here, and that’s amazing.”

And in baseball, Archer sees more than just a game. He sees a way for kids to learn about themselves and how to work with others.

“Baseball specifically teaches you so many life lessons,” Archer said. “It’s not about necessarily being a professional -- that’s great. It’s not about going to college -- that would be awesome, to get your college paid for. But more importantly, it teaches you leadership skills, how to work with people, how to work in a team environment, skills that you’re gonna need in the future to become a successful man or woman.”

Archer, coming off what he called “the worst season of my career,” knows firsthand about the life lessons that baseball can teach, using Saturday’s gray skies and sporadic showers as a way of tying it all together.

“A bad season is kind of like the rain,” Archer told the participants. “In order for you to grow, you need the rain. For me to grow as a baseball player, I needed that adversity.

“So when you’re playing and you strike out, or you give up a home run, don’t hang your head. It’s all about how you respond to what happens to you, and that’s what defines you.”

Sarah Wexler is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @SarahWexler32.