CHICAGO -- As you start a new year, consider a challenge from Cubs prospect Chris Singleton. He wants you to take a smiling photo with someone who looks different than you are. Singleton's hope is that you'll discover the two of you are not that different underneath.His motivation? The death
CHICAGO -- As you start a new year, consider a challenge from Cubs prospect Chris Singleton. He wants you to take a smiling photo with someone who looks different than you are. Singleton's hope is that you'll discover the two of you are not that different underneath.
His motivation? The death of his mother in a church shooting in Charleston, S.C., by a white supremacist.
"I think I was chosen for this, the path I've been on," Singleton said. "It'd be easy for me to not say anything about it, it'd be easy for me to sit back and play baseball and act like nothing ever happened in my life. I owe it to people and owe it to my family to speak the way I do and really try to shed a light on my message. I feel [my mother is] definitely with me."
His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, who was a minister at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, was one of nine people killed in the shooting on June 17, 2015. The next day, Singleton spoke on the Charleston Southern baseball field, saying he will never forget his mother's smile.
"Love is always stronger than hate," he said. "So if we just loved the way my mom would, then the hate won't be anywhere close to what it is."
Now, the 21-year-old outfielder, who was the Cubs' 19th-round pick in the Draft last June, is trying to share that inspirational message with more people.
"My main message is adversity and how we get through it in our lives and how everybody goes through it," Singleton said in a phone interview. "Adversity doesn't see color or age. It's coming for you and you need to be prepared when it happens."
He has created a website (www.thechrissingleton.com) and is selling "Love Your Neighbor" T-shirts. He had six speaking engagements booked for January, including two at the University of Texas and one at a youth conference in Florida.
"I'm just starting out," Singleton said. "[Love Your Neighbor] is supposed to be a challenge for someone to wear a shirt and take a picture with somebody who looks different than them, whether it's their skin color, whether it's an older person with a younger person, whether it's male and female -- it's just somebody different from what you look like.
"It's part of a plan I have for people to see we really do love each other," he said. "There's always conflict. You see stuff in the media and social media, people who think there should be two different sides to everything, which I think is happening a lot now and I don't like. Hopefully, what I want to happen, is that we see that we really do love each other and that's something I'm trying to spread."
On Jan. 12, Singleton will be honored by the Chicago Scouts Association as the 2017 recipient of the Charlie Donovan Memorial "Passion for the Game" Award, presented to an individual who shows a passion for their craft within the game or business of baseball. He is focused on the game.
"Baseball is definitely No. 1, but I feel baseball has given me more of a platform for my inspirational speaking," he said.
Last season was Singleton's first in pro ball and he batted .304 in 12 games with the Cubs' Arizona Rookie League team, then hit .185 in 27 games with Class A Short-Season Eugene.
"I started off really hot and cooled off a little bit, and when I started getting into the Minor League life, it hit me a little bit," he said. "I battled and played every single day and it was a lot of fun -- it was definitely a lot of fun. My team in Eugene, we ended up losing the [Northwest League] championship series, but we made a good run at it and had a lot of fun doing it."
It's been a challenging year. Last February, the Singletons went back to the church where his mother was shot to attend funeral services for their father. Chris lives with his fiancee and new son as well as his sister Camryn, 17, and brother Caleb, 14, in Charleston. He says he's not trying to be a parent to his siblings, just a big brother.
Before his talks, Singleton will write some notes. His message comes from the heart.
"I really want the Lord to speak through me," he said.
If you see Singleton play this season, watch closely. If he gets a big hit or makes a great catch, he'll give his mom a wink. On his Twitter account, he often adds, #CantLetMomsDown.
"This is all inspired by what has happened to me and my family," he said.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.