Above: Padres catcher Austin Hedges speaks at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event in Carlsbad. The Padres are contributing to 50 local charities as part of the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. Courtesy photo
Austin Hedges’ golf ball quickly found the water. But the biggest splash was when he spoke to North County kids at a Big Brothers Big Sisters event.
“No one is going to be successful in life without the help of others,” said Hedges, the Padres’ catcher. “So anything about mentorship, I’m all about it.”
Doing right is the Padres’ goal as they celebrate their 50th season. They mark the milestone by contributing to 50 charities throughout the region and the first check they scratched went to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County.
And really Hedges’ dimpled ball didn’t require a towel. He was at Carlsbad’s Full Swing Golf, where duffers can tone their skills on a simulated course.
Although there’s nothing fake about the love shared between caring adults and appreciative children in Big Brothers Big Sisters. Oceanside’s David Baeza has provided a shoulder for Jackson, 14, to lean on for three years.
“It has been incredible because he didn’t have any men in his life,” said Ruth, Jackson’s mother. “Him and David hit it off right away and they always seem to have a lot of fun.”
And more than laughs are sent Jackson’s way.
“It’s given him more confidence because before David he was shy and insecure,” she said. “David has been a cool part of his life.”
That coolness travels both directions, although Baeza was anything but chill when meeting Hedges.
“I was jumping up and down like a little kid,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Baeza gets a similar feeling when with Jackson.
“I grew up in a single-parent household and I probably would have benefitted from something like Big Brothers,” said Baeza, who also has two children. “I remember the father-son picnic at school and they would offer a male teacher or administrator to stand in, but I never wanted that. So I stayed home.”
Now he’s as comfortable in his residence as he is in Jackson’s.
“Him and David, when they talk to each other, it’s just in a different way,” Ruth said.
Those seeking a pat on the britches are often unique from others their age. As Baeza explains, they’ve been put in situations which could fast-forward their childhood.
“The main thing for him is to enjoy being a kid,” Baeza said. “Don’t worry about the adult stuff yet.”
Those considering lending a hand should, said Tina Rose, the interim CEO of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County. More than 200 North County youngsters are waiting and is there really a good reason not to touch the future by donating as little as four hours a month in the present?
“What we need the most help with is letting people know how easy it is and how rewarding and fun it is,” she said. “It is a neat way to give back.”
Especially at Camp Pendleton, where they are four different base locations where those can assist. The program was started in 2004 and has been replicated around the nation because of its success.
“A military child moves about nine times when their parent is in the service,” Rose said. “And often the father or mom is out on deployment and they could really use the help.”
Help it does as studies prove those with role models are more likely to graduate, are less violent and then do better as adults.
“They are our future,” Ruth said. “So this makes for an incredible opportunity.”
Unlike Hedges golf ball, Ruth’s words were far from all wet.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports