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Archer to bring his giving spirit to South Africa

Rays right-hander will travel as an MLB ambassador in December

ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Archer is all about giving back. Shortly after Thanksgiving, the Rays right-hander will be taking his penchant for making a difference to South Africa.

Archer's good work has been on display since he joined the Rays in a trade prior to the 2011 season. Included have been regular visits to the Juvenile Detention Center and to All Children's Hospital.

He's teamed up with GoodSports, Inc. to donate thousands of dollars' worth of equipment to schools and programs in need; visited Burg Baseball (nonprofit league) in South St. Petersburg and invited the team out to see him pitch; and visited The Academy, a high school for students who would otherwise not graduate regular high school, in Port Charlotte.

Archer has also spoken to the boys from the Write Field Program, a collaborative program between the Rays and the Poynter Institute, and during last year's holiday season, he handed out turkeys in his hometown of Raleigh, N.C., in addition to donating gifts to needy families.

Yeah, you could say he cares about others.

Now comes Archer's trip to South Africa.

Major League Baseball has an ambassador program, which helps build awareness of the game in different countries and continents. Archer will be one such ambassador when he heads to Africa, an assignment he takes with great seriousness.

"It's just nice for kids to be able to see a Major League Baseball player in person," Archer said. "It just makes it more real to them.

"It's one thing to watch baseball on TV and see pictures, and follow players on Twitter and Instagram. But to be able to see them live and in person kind of gives you that feeling that it's more possible. That you're more willing to go out and dedicate your time to it since you can see somebody who does it on the highest level."

Once offered the opportunity this past summer, Archer accepted right away. He will be in Africa from Dec. 2-12.

"Originally they had it scheduled for a little bit longer, but the offseason is really the only time we get to spend with our families, because during the season it's so hectic and my family doesn't live in Florida, so I wanted to condense it, just by a few days," Archer said. "I think they had it for 12 or 13 days and they were able to condense it to 10."

Archer's trip begins in Cape Town, South Africa. He'll be accompanied by his mentor, Ron Walker, who has been instrumental in helping Archer find the direction he's traveled.

Archer is not exactly sure about his entire agenda, but he knows he will make appearances at a baseball tournament and also at a camp in Cape Town. Then he'll be a guest coach at a baseball camp in Johannesburg.

"I'm going to help out any way I can," Archer said. "And also in the afternoons, when it's over, I'll be able to explore.

"The last three days of the trip will be a safari in Johannesburg. I get to do a little bit of everything I want to do. I've always wanted to go to Africa and explore, and it's even better that I can go and explore and actually give the people of South Africa a little something as well, as opposed to going over there for my own personal gain. Maybe I can leave a couple of nuggets with kids or coaches or kids or parents that will benefit their lives as well."

Archer will head to South Africa with an open mind filled with curiosity.

"I'm going over there to expand my mind and to learn things about myself and the world," Archer said. "So I'm looking forward to every experience, even if it is -- at the time -- it doesn't seem like the greatest. I'm going to benefit more from things that I'm unfamiliar with than things that I am."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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