Springer strives to inspire kids who stutter

Astros outfielder hosts bowling benefit to support Camp SAY

Springer strives to inspire kids who stutter

HOUSTON -- When Astros outfielder George Springer was a kid, he was intimidated by the thought of public speaking, mainly because he felt like the only person in the world who stuttered.

As an adult, he learned that he was not alone with his struggles, and now, he wants today's kids to also not feel that sense of isolation. He wants them to know stuttering should not stop them from doing what they want to do and being who they want to be.

That was the main message sent Thursday night at Lucky Strike bowling alley in downtown Houston, site of Springer's second annual All-Star Bowling Benefit. Proceeds support Camp SAY, a life-changing summer camp for young people who stutter. Springer is the SAY organization's national spokesman.

"You never know in life how you're going to go," Springer said. "You want to have the confidence to speak in front of people and in front of crowds. For some people, that's hard. I just hope I can help somebody out there and make it a little easier on them."

Several of Springer's Astros teammates attended the benefit, including Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jake Marisnick, Scott Feldman, Tony Kemp, Mike Fiers and Lance McCullers. Team owner Jim Crane, president Reid Ryan and several members of the Astros staff were also there.

Camp SAY is a summer camp that provides a welcoming environment for a young person who stutters, to help them develop the skills they need to communicate more effectively, build self-confidence and forge friendships to last a lifetime.

The sleep-away camp welcomes children and teens who stutter, ages 8 to 18, and their young family members and friends who want to share an incredible camp experience together. Young people from across the country, and beyond, attend Camp SAY year after year.

"They provide opportunities for kids to go to camp or just be around people who have the same 'problem' as them," Springer said, gesturing with air quotes. "And they get to see that they're not the only ones out there."

Springer relayed that message to the kids Thursday evening at the bowling alley, during an energetic presentation that included loud cheers, uplifting messages and an opportunity for the kids to get up close and personal with the star outfielder.

"Trust me when I say this," Springer said to the kids. "It'll get harder, but then it'll get easier. It'll get easier the more you accept it and the more you decide that, 'I am who I am.'"

Springer spoke of being intimidated by the simple act of ordering food: "I couldn't say pepperoni pizza to save my life. I can't say grilled cheese sometimes."

There are even occasions that he will ask his girlfriend to order food for delivery for him, because "there are some words I just don't feel like saying."

Springer is happy to use his celebrity to relay this message to young people, with hopes they'll have an easier time than he did.

"I never thought I'd be in the position that I am now, but I am here to tell you guys that I have to speak in front of a camera; I have to speak in front of people," he said. "I'm not scared to do it anymore. I once was, because ... I felt like I was the only one."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.