John Smoltz has been active in a wide variety of off-the-field causes during his 19 years in the big leagues but only lately has he turned his attention to one of the most insidious problems.
"Hunger is kind of the one we take for granted," Smoltz said. "We're used to having something on our plates all the time. We just assume that hunger happens to the few and homeless.
"But the children are having issues and are hungry. You can't fight any disease without food. We have the numbers -- one of every five children (goes hungry in his adopted home of Atlanta). It's a pretty staggering problem. We don't realize how prevalent hunger is in our city. We're trying to not only bring awareness, but also eliminate hunger."
Smoltz, a tireless community worker who won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in both 2002 and 2003, is now lending his name and influence to tackle hunger in Atlanta. At age 40, the 200-game winner has directed his own longtime foundation to support the Atlanta Table, an organization dedicated to fighting hunger.
"With the Table, they serve all the communities, and pick up excess food," Smoltz said. "They have limited expenses. Their overhead is zero almost. It's an organization where you know the funds are going directly to the actual needs instead of overhead."
Atlanta-area hotels and restaurants donate excess food. Smoltz participates in autographed food-can drives at Turner Field.
"I donate $100 for every strikeout to Strikeout Hunger Team," he said. "People can also donate their own contributions per strikeout."
Smoltz has operated his own foundation for 15 years, since he first became established with the Braves. He funnels all the proceeds of his outside work, including commercials and speaking engagements, to the foundation. A recent lawn-care TV spot raised needed money.
Smoltz also has hosted his own celebrity pro-am golf tourney to benefit children's hospitals. He has participated in the Police Athletic League and the Braves' Reach Out to Be Our Guest Program. In addition to winning the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in 2002-03, Smoltz was nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2005.
He also is an educator with strong feelings about spiritual instruction. Smoltz helped establish Kings Ridge Christian School in the Atlanta area.
"Our area did not have a private Christian school," he said. "It's another option for people. We tend to gravitate toward that because of overcrowded public schools and some people want an extension of their home to be in the educational process. We finally got our first building. We're embarking in a big campaign to build the campus out."
The Kings Ridge school runs its own fundraising campaign. So Smoltz has multiple avenues for helping others.
For all that Smoltz has accomplished on the field in Atlanta, his most enduring contributions may have come in the community.
Story courtesy Red Line Editorial.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.