Visit to homeless shelter makes impact on Combine prospects

June 16th, 2022

Hundreds of thousands of Americans experience homelessness each year. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that over half a million people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2020, marking a nationwide increase for the fourth consecutive year.

More than half of all people experiencing homelessness in the country were in four states, leading with California. On Wednesday, former All-Star Harold Reynolds, along with 10 MLB Draft Combine prospects, got a glimpse of what that looks like in the state on a tour of the Alpha Project’s bridge shelter in San Diego.

The bridge shelter, which is owned by the Lucky Duck Foundation, provides shelter for nearly 300 individuals nightly. Throughout the tour, Reynolds and each of the prospects were able to witness how impactful a safe space -- paired with community help -- can be for those experiencing homelessness.

“Since I'm in L.A., driving around I'll see a lot of homeless people,” Harvard-Westlake star Toussaint Bythewood said. “But it's really inspiring to see how, when you can take action, that great things can come of it. We see this great shelter that they made out here, and it is a really inspiring place.”

Bythewood said giving back to the community is something he wants to do once he makes it big in the Majors, so touring the facility was a great opportunity for him to see the different ways he can help make an impact.

“I think it's important to kind of come out here and see this because it’s more about the community,” Bythewood said. “It's more than just baseball. And I think it's important to realize that and understand how different someone’s life could be just based on how they grew up.”

Reynolds addressed a few points about homelessness to Bythewood and the rest of the prospects before the tour, but there were two that seemed to sit with them most:

  • The stigma surrounding homelessness is just a stigma.
  • As athletes, they have a chance to make an impact on more than just the game.

Back when Reynolds was playing for the Mariners in the '80s, he’d walk through Pioneer Park to The Kingdome and talk to some of the homeless people he met along the way. One of them was a former college professor.

“It just opened my eyes that it’s everybody. It’s not somebody who’s down on their luck,” Reynolds said. “All the way back then, that was an eye opener for me. So, I'm hoping today that you get to have some conversations with people, look around, open your eyes, and you'll see it a little bit different, too. Because you guys are going to impact your communities that you play in.”

Pat Kilkenny, co-founder of the Lucky Duck Foundation, echoed Reynolds’ sentiments.

“There are an amazing number of accomplished people here that are really bright, that are educated, but for one reason or another… it’s just, things can happen," Kilkenny said. “For [the MLB Draft Combine Prospects] just to understand that and appreciate that, you know, let's all bring it together, let's see what we can do to help one another … Extraordinary people can do extraordinary things. And not just because they can field a baseball or hit a baseball. They can do a lot more than that.”