By: Alexandra Gintoli
The in-season schedule of a professional athlete, especially a Major League Baseball player, is nothing short of busy. With 162 games scheduled over a (roughly) eight month period, including time committed to practicing and training, it’s amazing they’re able to make time for themselves and their families outside of the whirlwind that is the game of baseball.
Those that do, however, have often proven to selflessly devote their time to giving back to their local communities by supporting different non-profit or charitable organizations. This is the case for superstar George Springer, right-fielder for the Houston Astros, who entered the majors in 2014 and has been with the team ever since. After entering the world of the MLB, the then-rookie Springer began stepping out of his comfort zone to speak openly about something that he had battled with since childhood: his stutter.
For those that may not know, stuttering is a disfluency in speech characterized by various pauses, delays, and repetitions of words or sounds while speaking. It can be extremely detrimental to one’s self-confidence, especially someone who finds themselves in front of the cameras regularly or attending public speaking engagements. Despite the challenges brought with navigating around a stutter, Springer cast aside any prior inhibitions and eventually partnered with SAY: The Stuttering Association for the Young, founded in the early 2000’s by CEO Taro Alexander, an individual that also stutters. SAY is a non-profit group committed to providing resources and services for children that stutter, including an annual summer camp, access to speech therapy, and other events throughout the year based at their headquarters in New York City.
As a native of nearby Connecticut, Springer went on to pioneer the First Annual George Springer Bowling Benefit in 2015, hosted at Lucky Strike Bowling in Houston, TX, that raised funds to send children to Camp SAY. As a volunteer of the organization at the time, it was amazing to see first-hand the influence that one person can have in a community that has overcome so much.
I also had the opportunity around that time to speak with George’s father, George Springer Sr., about the struggles that he and his wife endured as parents to a child that stutters. As a former Speech-Language Pathology Assistant myself, I came across all variants of stuttering from mild to severe, working often with parents to help their children achieve their goals and feel more comfortable about their speech. After relaying this to George Springer Sr., he told me that he and his wife always tried to find the best support for George growing up. He reflected back on a particularly difficult time when George was asked to read aloud during class; feeling uncomfortable about having to speak in front of his classmates and telling the teacher he did not want to read, the teacher decided to ‘punish’ him by making him sit outside of the classroom. It was events like these that triggered his parents to push him into not letting his stutter prevent him from accomplishing great things in life, or letting others hold him back. And, based on the tremendous success of the last six years of his career, I’d say they whole-heartedly held up to that promise.
After the major success of the first bowling event, SAY carried on the tradition by making the event an annual gathering. His fellow teammates, Houston socialites, and other Houston athletes can usually be seen attending, purchasing lanes to sponsor SAY and bowling with many local Houston residents. To see the absolute joy on the children’s faces in having a role model like George is an experience that guests of the event surely can never forget, nor will I. It only further confirms the kindness and dedication to others that George and other MLB players like himself have that truly make them the real MVP’s of the game, both on and off the field.
For more information on SAY and George’s sponsorship, feel free to check out www.say.org