Nick Punto's call to action04/08/2011 11:27 AM ET
By Lauren Iwanow / MLBPLAYERS.com
Nick Punto, one of the first players to get involved with the Action Team, told high school students why he's such a big fan of the Players Association's fast-growing youth volunteer program during a nationwide teleconference.
"With the Action Team, you're part of a team and you're part of something really special," Punto said. "Maybe it doesn't get a light from the media, but we're growing and getting bigger.
"I think it's so cool for high school students to do this, because I didn't have the Action Team when I was in high school. It's just a lot of fun and that's why it's near and dear to my heart. Every high school kid deserves this, and we just need to keep growing."
Run by the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Volunteers of America, the Action Team is designed to bring high school Action Team captains and Major League baseball players together to train and inspire the next generation of volunteers. And they're making a difference in their communities.
Since its inception in 2003, the Action Team has grown from a single location in Denver to more than 160 high schools across the country and helped over 26,000 students improve the lives of more than 111,000 people in need.
In his three years with the Minneapolis Action Team while playing for the Twins, Punto joined student volunteers to promote wellness and fitness for senior citizens by hosting baseball-themed health and fitness fairs and participating in virtual Wii baseball competitions.
"The Wii tournament with the elderly was unbelievable," said Punto, who now plays for the Cardinals. "You definitely have to work to make time for community service, but it really is a good time. It's fun for everybody.
"It's one of those things where it's not a whole lot of time, but it really is appreciated. It means a lot to be able to go out into the community and do those little things, and it's one of those things where, once you get in the door and you see the smiles on peoples' faces, it's so rewarding and worth it."
Action Team captains from Mt. Eden High School in Hayward, Calif., -- the featured Action Team of the month -- dedicate their time to playing games with children and local elders and know the power that small actions can have in bringing together a community.
Diana Duong said volunteering with the Action Team has given her the chance to share volunteer ideas with other students and start projects inspired by the work of her Action Team peers. For her, the experience has been "an epiphany."
"Working with elders at a senior center in San Francisco changed my views on volunteering," Duong said. "At first I started volunteering so it would look good on my college application, but as I immersed myself in volunteering activities I realized that the experience is priceless and the feeling after it is rewarding.
"It's very touching to see all the people you've helped, like when you have elders singing for you or you see children playing. It's no longer a matter of looking good on college applications -- it's about helping others and just having fun with friends doing something you like to do."
Duong's experience in the program was similar to that of Punto, who is bringing his volunteer efforts to the St. Louis community this year,
"It's nice to hear from Mt. Eden because they're right on the ball," Punto said. "You can hear the passion in their voices and that's so exciting for me on the other end of the phone. It truly is awesome."
Punto left the Action Team captains with the challenge for each school to spread the word and recruit one new high school.
"We have 160 high schools. If we could double the schools we have now, that's really going to make the Action Team an amazing thing. I didn't get the chance to do things like this in high school because it just wasn't around and we didn't have access to it, just like a lot of high schools out there. We need to get bigger and we need to grow because I would love for everybody to be able to be a part of this."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.