By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Now batting against hunger for the recently departed Billy Butler, Royals’ infielder Christian Colon.
A raw rookie last year who eagerly accepted the former slugger’s invitation to sign autographs at an annual event for the Bishop Sullivan Center, Colon was more than eager to step up when Butler signed with the Oakland A’s during the off-season.
“He came to us,” said Mike Mathews, director of St. James Place where the Sullivan Center hosts daily meals for the poor.
“At O’Hara last year (the Catholic high school where the autograph party for Sullivan Center donors was held), he came up to me and said, ‘I want to get more involved in this,’” Mathews said.
It took exactly one phone call and the time it took for Colon to say “You bet I will,” for the Bishop Sullivan Center to find a new champion for the poor and hungry on the American League champion Royals’ roster.
“Christian said he will show up to as many things as he possibly can, and his wife (Kayla) said she will come to as many things as she possibly can,” Mathews said.
To prove it wasn’t just talk, Christian and Kayla gave up a precious day off May 4 to announce his “Go 2 Bat 4 Others” program (a play on his Royals No. 24), that, according to Mathews, will be about more than raising money.
Yes, for a $100 donation, fans of either or both the baseball team and the social service agency can receive such items as an autographed mini-bat, signed by Colon or by one of his other budding superstar teammates Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas or Eric Hosmer.
But what Colon really wants to do, Mathews said, is lead children to help others.
“We’re trying to get kids involved,” Mathews said. “He wants to get kids to go to bat for others.”
That’s where his heart is, Kayla Colon said.
Christian signed a big contract in 2010 when the Royals took him fourth overall in the amateur draft. His road to the majors took three more years, and he is now a utility infielder who has proven his value already early in the season by filling in at second base, third base and shortstop.
“Christian is in a particular place where he can help lead,” Kayla said. “We want to help lead children and get them into the right opportunities in life, and this is a blessing.”
Christian’s career has barely begun, but the life of a baseball player is often nomadic, moving from city to city. That doesn’t bother either the player or his wife.
“He has faith in what the Lord has planned for us,” Kayla said. “We’re not worried. We’ll serve wherever we are at.”
Colon wasted no time in talking to a group of little leaguers who conducted the very first food drive of the “Go 2 Bat 4 Others” program. And future groups will also have the opportunity to meet Colon, and receive a tour of the food pantry to see the good they have done.
“I’m very proud of you guys,” Colon told the youngsters. “This says a lot about how you are being raised by your parents, and how much you care about others. You guys taking the time to do this? It’s big.”
Of course, the young players peppered the big leaguer with questions.
His favorite position?
“I’d say shortstop. I play second, too and a little bit of third,” he said.
How to hit a 99 mph fastball?
“It’s not that fast,” he deadpanned. “Now 100 miles an hour? That’s fast. You just see that pitch and you swing.”
His own favorite Royals’ player?
“I got two,” he said. “Alex Gordon, by how he prepares himself every day. Nobody works harder. Pitching-wise, Wade Davis. He’s a shut-down pitcher,” Colon said.
He also told the little leaguers that he dreamed of being a big league player since he was their age.
“One of you guys may well be doing what I’m doing one day, and that will be pretty cool,” Colon said.
“You should always try to be the best ballplayer around, but also to be the best dude around,” he said. “If you can help other people, that’s even greater.”
Information about the Christian Colon “Go 2 Bat 4 Others” including information about getting children involved can be found at the Bishop Sullivan Center Web site, www.bishopsullivan.org, or by e-mailing Angela Fencl at firstname.lastname@example.org.