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Goodrum visits Flint to distribute donated water

MLB.com @beckjason

FLINT, Mich. -- The line of cars pulling into Bethel United Methodist Church stretched around the block and then some, winding around the nearby four-lane road and down a neighborhood street. A local resident walked down the street to complain that he couldn't pull out of his driveway.

It's the type of commotion that might have accompanied a Tigers superstar on the Winter Caravan during their playoff years. But utility infielder Niko Goodrum isn't a star name and he wasn't doing an autograph signing. He was delivering bottled water. And the line winds and unwinds every time, three days a week, celebrity or not at the end.

FLINT, Mich. -- The line of cars pulling into Bethel United Methodist Church stretched around the block and then some, winding around the nearby four-lane road and down a neighborhood street. A local resident walked down the street to complain that he couldn't pull out of his driveway.

It's the type of commotion that might have accompanied a Tigers superstar on the Winter Caravan during their playoff years. But utility infielder Niko Goodrum isn't a star name and he wasn't doing an autograph signing. He was delivering bottled water. And the line winds and unwinds every time, three days a week, celebrity or not at the end.

Goodrum donated 1,440 cases of bottled water, the number of cases that could fit into a truck, but just donating wasn't enough. And so on the Tigers' first off-day in nearly three weeks, after 18 games in 17 days, Goodrum made the hour-long trip from Detroit on Monday morning and helped volunteers give out the water.

Video: Goodrum gives back

"It's a lot of water," Goodrum said, "especially when you're actually picking them up and putting them in the car. You see how much bottled water it really is."

One vehicle after another pulled up, and Goodrum worked the relay line -- one person handing a case to another. He loaded water into trunks, pickup beds and back seats. He cleared room in a woman's passenger seat for water. He found whatever space they needed for eight cases.

Some drivers said hello. Many said thanks. A few fans wanted a picture. But more than anything, they wanted the water.

"It's been cool," Goodrum said, "but it's also been an eye-opening day, how big the problem still is. Because you see the cars that are wrapped around and they keep coming. They're sitting here for hours just to get some bottles of water. So you see how important it is."

Goodrum was motivated to help when he watched a TV movie on the Flint water crisis at home with his mother over the offseason. He approached Jordan Field, director of the Detroit Tigers Foundation, and said he wanted to do something. Field contacted the United Way of Genesee County, which connected him with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, which helps run the water distribution.

"To have Niko and the Tigers' organization step up, it's about more than just 1,500 cases of water," said Congressman Dan Kildee, who was also helping load water Monday. "It says that people are still thinking about this community and they're still standing strong with the people of Flint. That's valuable. That says a lot, and we're just really grateful."

While testing of the city's water supply has shown lead levels to be within federal standards, there is still a concern about remaining service lines that carry the water to residences. The city continues to replace lead pipes that were damaged by contaminated water from the Flint River. The state of Michigan's free bottled water program ended earlier this spring, though the state has been providing water filters.

Tweet from @TigersCommunity: This morning Niko Goodrum joined the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and United Way of Genesee County to distribute thousands of cases of bottled water at a Community Help Center in Flint, MI. #ItsMoreThanBaseball pic.twitter.com/F2vw6n1oD2

Goodrum knew from the movie that the situation in Flint wasn't over. But he wasn't quite ready for what he saw Monday.

"I didn't know what to expect, I really didn't," Goodrum said. "I didn't expect this. This is huge on the turnout, people that actually need the water. So I can see the problem and how big it still is."

Goodrum wanted to do his part. He's not a star with an eight-figure contract, nor does he have a foundation for charity work. The Georgia native and former Twins Draft pick signed with the Tigers on a non-roster invite before making the team out of Spring Training as a switch-hitter who can play all over the field. He's essentially a minimum-salaried Major League player working to stick in the big leagues after eight seasons in the Twins' farm system, with no guarantee of a big contract in his future to set him up for life.

Goodrum is also a player with a big heart who wants to give, even if it costs him some extra hours of sleep on a badly-needed off-day. If his help raises awareness in the process, even better.

"I hope it does," Goodrum said, "and I told everyone I'm going to continue to do this throughout the season. I'll put in a couple more days to get some more pallets."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Niko Goodrum