AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Matthew Boyd stood in front of the gathering at his charity fundraiser on Monday morning at Topgolf, his little daughter, Meira, in one arm, a microphone in the other. He thanked the multitudes who bought tickets for an evening of golf, food and fun, as well
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Matthew Boyd stood in front of the gathering at his charity fundraiser on Monday morning at Topgolf, his little daughter, Meira, in one arm, a microphone in the other. He thanked the multitudes who bought tickets for an evening of golf, food and fun, as well as the nearly 20 teammates who joined him on their first off-day in two weeks. He talked about Kingdom Home and the plans he and his wife, Ashley, have in mind to help combat sex trafficking in Africa.
All the while, he kept Meira in his arms as the little girl kept moving around, eventually handing her off to Ashley for a couple minutes. When the couple talked with reporters later, Meira was in his arms again, tugging at his Tigers jersey, poking at the pin-on microphone, chewing on her jacket.
To his credit, Boyd didn’t miss a step, staying on topic the entire time. It was an apt symbol for his life these days.
A year ago at this time, Matthew and Ashley were putting together plans for this project. Instead of simply giving money to help a widow in Uganda who had rescued 36 girls with her late husband, the Boyds took it a step further and gave their time and effort, creating a nonprofit organization to support the children and provide a better life through shelter, food and access to education.
If somebody had told Matthew Boyd then that they’d have a nonprofit supporting 90 children and three homes with plans to buy land and build six homes -- all while he and Ashley raise two kids of their own, and while he pitches some of the best baseball in the big leagues so far this season -- he probably wouldn’t believe it. Not this quickly, anyway.
“I think he’s just trusting the process,” said longtime teammate and friend, Daniel Norris. “He’s going about his work and doing what he can and wanting to fulfill his calling.”
Ashley handles a lot of the work as executive director, Matthew said, and they’ve been blessed by God. His teammates say they’re special.
“I remember hearing Matty and Ashley talk about it when they started it,” Daniel Stumpf said. “Just watching it grow to now, it’s expanding I think quicker than they expected, which is awesome. Being able to help out, they go over and help support these kids. It’s amazing.”
Despite an unseasonably chilly evening, Monday’s effort packed the second floor of the Topgolf facility with supporters, teammates and current and former members of the Tigers organization. Some, like Blaine Hardy and Gordon Beckham, are good at golf. Others, like Norris and Josh Harrison, don’t normally hit the links or driving range, but they take their swings for good causes.
“If you give me a putt-putt, it might be a different story,” Harrison said. “But if I have to drive it, good luck.”
As Harrison took his hacks Monday, he was clearly having fun. But he was also impressed by what Boyd has put together.
“A lot of people have a true desire and a heart to help and just don’t know how to go about doing it, especially starting early in their career,” Harrison said. “Kudos to Matt and Ashley for finding a way. They’ve gotten a good feel for the right people around them to help something that’s near and dear to them.”
Other Tigers who took part included Nicholas Castellanos, Shane Greene, Jordan Zimmermann, John Hicks, Grayson Greiner, Spencer Turnbull, Buck Farmer, JaCoby Jones, Niko Goodrum, Christin Stewart and Nick Ramirez.
The effort came together with the help of Big League Impact, an organization with a similar story. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright launched Big League Impact in 2013 with the idea of having a player across the Majors participate in an online fantasy football draft to raise money for their favorite charities. Today, the organization works with 30 Major League players to support campaigns ranging from clean water to food instability, single parenting, sustainability, farming, refugee relief and Boyd’s cause of fighting child sex trafficking.
“It’s very inspiring,” Norris said. “We’re utilizing our platform for good, and that’s what it’s all about.”
The Boyds have a goal of raising $250,000 to buy land and build three homes. They’ve raised $100,000 already. Monday’s fundraiser was expected to take a bite out of the remaining $150,000.
“It’s pretty special that so many people, including teammates, want to help out,” Matthew Boyd said. “It means a ton. It’s pretty cool that they have a heart for this mission. So many of them have given, and they’ve helped out in so many ways.”
Those who want to help can still make a donation or sponsor a child at kingdomhome.org.
Said Ashley: “People need to realize that it’s not just and him, a big leaguer, that can make a difference. Everyone can make a difference. Anyone can volunteer their time or resources and give and really change a child’s life, whether it’s here in Detroit or in Uganda or wherever. This is a global issue, but we can end it.”
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.