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Archer visits RBI program, hopes to make a difference

CLEVELAND -- Chris Archer sat on a bench on the first-base side of field No. 3 at Brookside Park in Cleveland. Before him were a group of children on a dusty diamond, participating in a Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) camp, put on by the Cleveland Baseball Federation.

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When the Tampa Bay Rays pitcher is asked a question, he pauses, eyes transfixed upon the field in front of him, before answering. He's an introspective man. Spiritual, and thoughtful. One who believes that each spoken word, like each opportunity and decision in life, is one worth careful consideration. He's an avid reader, one who values taking the message from whatever it is he most recently read, whether negative or positive, and finding a way to apply it to his own life.

"I heard Malcolm Gladwell say that every book is a personal growth or self-growth book," Archer said. "Because even if you're learning what not to do, you're learning."

In a sense, that same philosophy is one that Archer applies to the youth baseball camps at which he so often volunteers. The purpose of his presence at these camps is far less about preparing and teaching kids how to excel at baseball, and far more about preparing and teaching kids how to excel at life.

With his appearances, Archer hopes to simply inspire a passion within the children, whether it be baseball, reading, writing, or anything else that captures their imagination.

"I just want these kids to recognize their talent early," Archer said. "Because the earlier you recognize your passion, the sooner you can accomplish your goals."

When working with the underserved youth, passion can often be the key to superseding circumstance.

"Most of the people who are successful in life aren't handed everything," Archer said. "That's why I like to read. Because I learn about all these obstacles that people have to overcome and then it makes my obstacles look miniscule."

In 2012, Archer started the Archway Foundation, whose goal is simple. "Empower the youth." The foundation has donated more than $70,000 worth of sports equipment in Tampa Bay and Archer's home state of North Carolina, and supports two youth baseball teams. Rather than pay to play on these teams, the children are simply asked to give their effort. Things like summer reading, community projects and helping their parents around the house earn them points that go towards the end goal: playing baseball and having fun, while growing as human beings.

"Just small things that develop character and develop men," Archer said.

Archer reached out to RBI on his own, looking to make a long-term connection with the organization and children not only of Tampa Bay, but across the country. His proactive approach is one the organization says it hasn't really seen before from an athlete.

Archer says he wishes he was given the opportunity, as a child with aspirations of playing in the big leagues, to listen to a Major League athlete speak. Now that the tables are turned, he'll take every opportunity he can get to fulfill that wish of as many children as possible. To empower the youth.

"Why not?" Archer said. "I don't have any obligation to Cleveland. I don't have any kids or a family, so I can dedicate an hour. Because at the end of the day, you're looking at one hour to maybe have a positive impact and change somebody's life."

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays, Chris Archer