I spent the last three weeks of my senior year of high school working as an intern for the Major League Baseball Players Association, where I first became aware of the Action Team national youth volunteer program.
06/14/2010 5:37 PM ET
Huston Street encourages Action
Rockies closer joins conference call, shares experiences
By Ian Gray / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
To an outsider like me, the Action Team was a little known program. However, I found that community-minded kids in more than 145 high schools in 30 states and Puerto Rico have become very familiar with the Action Team the last several years.
For those of you who don't know, the Action Team, a joint creation of the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Volunteers of America, the national human services organization, is hard at work trying to train and inspire the next generation of volunteers -- my generation. By all accounts, it's working.
Participating schools designate five to 10 students to serve as Action Team captains, who lead volunteer efforts in their community and inspire other students to get involved. So far, more than 25,000 students have helped more than 100,000 people in need. In addition to being part of an exciting and innovative national community service program, Action Team Captains get to share their experiences with Major League baseball players and other Action Team students through monthly conference calls.
I had the pleasure of participating in the final conference call of the 2009-10 school year. Joining us on the call was Huston Street, a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies.
I learned during the conference call that Huston is not only an excellent pitcher, but he's also a man of great character and values. The Rockies' closer is one of more than 50 Major Leaguers who volunteer their time with the Action Team program. During the conference call, Huston stressed the importance of helping out and giving back to the community.
"Always appreciate what you have" Huston said. "That was something that was engrained in me from my father. There's always going to be someone better off, you're always going to have something to work toward, and you could always be in a worse situation. With the privileges that I've been blessed with throughout my life, I try to impart some of that.
"It's more than just wanting to give back; truthfully, it's the feeling that you get when you connect with somebody. It's gratitude and thankfulness for the life I've been blessed with, the parents that I have, and the situation that I got put in. There are a lot of circumstantial things that were out of my control that have allowed me to get to where I am."
Huston attributes his willingness to help others and participation as a member of the Action Team to the altruism of the acts. "It's just the selflessness, the desire to want to connect. Just to see people taking time because that's essentially what you're paying. It's time that you're giving people, and it's attention and it's warmth."
He also mentioned the leadership aspect of the Action Team program as a positive. He emphasized the importance of "leading by example," saying, "I think that actions speak louder than words, and we pay attention more to what people do than to what people say. Or at least we should because that's what counts."
Huston's message had a big impact on the student Action Team captains calling in from all across the U.S., including those from West Boylston (Mass.) High School, the featured Action Team of the month.
The West Boylston High School Action Team told the conference call participants of the many volunteer projects they organized during the school year, ranging from a prom dress drive to a stuffed animal drive, to support the needs unique to their community. Their main project was a shoe drive run through Soles for Souls. During the week-long drive, the school was able to collect 300 pairs of shoes -- a pretty impressive feat considering that the graduating class consists of just 81 seniors -- to be sent to areas of need such as Africa.
The school also had a clothing drive and book drive in which the books collected were donated to local elementary schools and schools in Worcester, Mass., and also to hospitals.
As I mentioned earlier, 145 Action Team schools just like West Boylston play an instrumental role in addressing the needs of their communities. Take, for example, the Action Team from Lakewood High School in Cleveland. Action Team captains there organized a unique project: Personal hygiene kits. The object was to collect hygienic products -- soap, shampoo, razors and socks, among other things -- and create bags containing these items to be distributed to those in need.
They were able to achieve their goal of creating 500 bags, and even received some "big league" help when Russell Branyan of the Indians showed up to help stuff the bags and to thank the team captains for their ongoing commitment to the Action Team and the Cleveland community.
I wasn't familiar with the Action Team program when I came to the MLBPA as an intern. But now I am, and I'm glad to have found out about it.
I would encourage all high school students, teachers and administrators to launch an Action Team in your school. You'll get free resources such as DVDs, posters, step-by-step volunteer activity ideas and your school's Action Team captains will get free T-shirts, and they'll be eligible for college scholarships from the Players Trust.
Best of all, you'll get to connect with Major League baseball players and share your volunteer experiences with students from across the country.
Ian Gray will graduate from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, N.Y., this month.