Relocated players continue charitable endeavors
Many Major Leaguers remain committed after changing teams and cities
BOSTON -- For all the No. 20 shirts around Boston on Kevin Youkilis' first day back, it was the taxi driver who stood out.
"The cabbie had a Youk's Kids bracelet today," Youkilis said. "It's hilarious. He was great, I don't know where he was from. Older guy, good guy."
Youkilis, who spent nine seasons with the Red Sox before being traded to the White Sox, said he and the driver didn't talk about the bracelet, a token of support for Youkilis' charity that's been going since 2007.
That wasn't the only remnant of it. In the days after the trade, a sign that's likely one of many stood in the window of a laundromat a couple miles from Fenway Park, asking customers to donate. None of it is obsolete.
Youk's Kids will continue on, both in Boston and in Youkilis' new locale -- even if that's somewhere other than Chicago after this season. Boston-area organizations like the Italian Home for Children will still benefit, even if Youkilis can't personally be in town for fundraisers.
Someday, the organization could be passed on to another Red Sox player. For now, the transition following the trade was eased because Youkilis started planning a year ago.
"We're going to try to do it everywhere we play," Youkilis said. "[My wife and I are] going to live out in California. We'll still do community work, but probably one event here a year [in person] only. Then other guys might do stuff that goes to charity. [Bruins forward] Shawn Thornton's helping, he's going to go on too and do stuff here.
"It'll still live on. Until, who knows? Maybe down the road it's getting a young player to pick up and do it, because if I have a family then I can't make it out as much. But if it's one event a year, you probably can make it out and do something good. It's not like it's a lot more time."
They're afterthoughts for most folks, but non-profits are affected when a player leaves a city where was ingrained.
Inevitably, one community gains. The trick is trying to keep the community being left behind from being, well, left behind.
Albert Pujols, a future Hall of Famer, departed St. Louis after 11 years for Anaheim. On Thursday, the Pujols Family Foundation will host its 10th-annual celebrity golf tournament, this time in California instead of Missouri.
But Pujols' organization -- which benefits those with Down syndrome and the terminally ill, as well as the impoverished in the Dominican Republic -- remains headquartered in St. Louis, and the money he raises will impact both cities he's played in.
"For me, it wasn't easy to come over here, but it would've been really hard to move the organization like that," Pujols said. "There are a lot of people in St. Louis that we really appreciate and want to keep helping out. I don't want to disconnect myself from that city. They've done a lot for our organization. They've supported us 100 percent all the time, and at the same time, I want to show them that just because I'm not playing there doesn't mean I'm not going to do events in St. Louis.
For Youkilis, the first Chicago fundraiser is set for Aug. 23, at the piano bar Howl at the Moon. Youkilis will be back in Boston at the nightclub Royale on Dec. 6 for the third annual "Not Your Average Idol" night. Musician Gavin DeGraw performed last year.
In Chicago and anywhere else, Youk's Kids will operate as Athletes for Heroes, said Tina Cantu, co-vice president of Youk's Kids. Athletes for Heroes is a program that was set up to support children of those who give their lives protecting others.
Then, someday, Youk's Kids could become Somebody Else's Kids.
"At some point, it might," Cantu said. "We've actually been preparing for [Youkilis' departure] knowing that Kevin was in the last year of his contract with an [option]. We've been preparing for it for over a year. So what we did, we started working with Kevin and talked about at some point identifying other players on the Red Sox team who don't necessarily have charities right now that might want to step in. ... We were fortunate enough to have the foresight with Kevin to branch out into this Athletes for Heroes. We did that so that can be taken anywhere, can go national."
Growth is something Pujols has worked toward, too.
"Now it's on a national level," he said. "We're going to do activities in Tennessee, Kansas City, St. Louis, here in Southern California, and maybe next year we expand. That's always been our dream -- not just concentrating on St. Louis or the Dominican Republic. Our dream is always to expand, because in this country, like in the Dominican, like in all of Latin America, you're needed."
Things can be a little simpler come a trade or free agency if a player's foundation does most of its work in a city different than the one where the player is located.
The Twins' Josh Willingham started a foundation in his home state of Alabama with the initial intention of helping underprivileged kids. When tornadoes hit in 2011, the organization switched gears and raised more than $100,000.
Although Willingham has been on three teams in as many seasons, relocation hasn't been an issue. Still, he reiterated a bottom line that Youkilis and Pujols also offered: If a player wants to help, he can, regardless of how much he moves around.
"Now we're talking about expanding to Minnesota," Willingham said. "In fact we just started talking about this last week. The foundation's getting bigger, there's more support so we're going to be able to. Obviously, being a Major League Baseball player, you have a lot of people interested in you. People find out you wanting to do something to raise money to help for whatever, a hospital in Minnesota, it's not that hard to get people to support that. ... But if I'm somewhere else, I'll help out there. You can help out anybody from anywhere if you want to."