Lindor happy to give back with RBI program

Indians shortstop takes part in drills with Philly youth players during off-day

Lindor happy to give back with RBI program

PHILADELPHIA -- The Indians had an off-night in Philadelphia on Thursday. You have to understand. Off-nights are precious for big leaguers, a rare opportunity to take a break from the daily grind of the regular season.

Shortstop Francisco Lindor chose to spend part of his evening at Citizens Bank Park. There was no game. Outside, it rained on and off. The place was nearly deserted by the time the 22-year-old rising star arrived. Except at one of the indoor batting cages where members from three of Philadelphia's Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program were going through some drills.

"I always want to give back. I always want to help," Lindor said. "A lot of people helped me throughout my life and I want to give back. And for me, to give back is not money. It's giving time. I feel like if I help one kid, two kids, they can help somebody else. And keep that moving forward, and pretty soon we're living in a better place. I want people to help my kids later on."

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The kids, ranging in ages 8 to 15, were from the North Philadelphia R&R Mejia and MVP 360 and the Bustleton Bengals from the Northeast. Phillies youth baseball development director Jon Joacquin and his staff were on hand.

Lindor, wearing his No. 12 Indians jersey, then spoke and answered questions for a half hour, followed by more drills which he observed, offering tips from time to time. Afterward, he stuck around to chat one-on-one with some of the players, sign autographs and pose for pictures.

"It was really cool," said 9-year-old Cayden Stewart from the Bengals.

In addition to instructing the youngsters on fielding, Lindor delivered an inspirational message, telling his story about growing up in Puerto Rico playing with broomsticks and baseballs that were rocks inside newspaper bound in tape. He moved to Orlando when he was 12, leaving his family behind, enduring bullying and homesickness. He didn't speak English.

And if he could persevere, Lindor said, they can, too.

"I was just like you guys," he said. "It was tough, but I had a dream. I'm sure all of you have a dream. My dream was to play on television every night so my parents could see me. I kept on working toward that dream and I encourage you guys to work toward your dreams. That's what it's all about.

"You've got to do whatever it takes to accomplish your dreams. Whether it's playing baseball. Whether it's being a doctor, a fireman, a policeman. Just make sure you work toward your dream. Whatever you do in life, make sure you're the best at it. I might not be the best shortstop, but I work to make sure I'm the best shortstop I can be. And work to be the best person I can be."

It's all right to be scared, Lindor said, telling a story about how he was once so afraid of getting hit by the ball that he invented a string of injuries to keep from having to play. And it's all right to make mistakes, he added, relating how he once broke a window throwing a baseball in the house and how, on another occasion, he scratched the floor by trying to run indoors in his brother's new metal cleats.

"Nobody here is perfect," Lindor said. "Along the way, you might get a little carried away. You might get off the path. But make sure you're smart enough and mature enough to get back on track. Stay in school. Listen to your teachers. Listen to your parents. Make sure you do everything to stay on the right path.

"You've got to have a purpose in life. So make sure that purpose in your life is in front of you all the time. Why am I doing this? Because I want to be someone. Why am I studying math? Because I want to be an engineer or something huge. Why do I study Chinese? Because I want to work in China and communicate with a lot of people in the world.

"Everybody is going to have problems. You have to find a way to make sure you take the best route. Don't be afraid to say you're sorry. I wasn't perfect. I'm still not perfect. Don't be afraid to come out of your comfort zone and ask for help. Why not? There's help out there."

And Lindor is one of those out there trying to help as much as he can.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.