Skaggs shows giving spirit at holiday party

Skaggs shows giving spirit at holiday party

Imagine 11-year-old Tyler Skaggs, a kid from Southern California, a Little Leaguer who loves the Angels and is glued to the television on an October night as he watches his heroes -- Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad, Garret Anderson -- help bring his team a World Series championship.

Fast-forward all these years later and Skaggs is a starting pitcher for the very same team he rooted for as a kid. He's making a living playing baseball at the highest level, plying his trade every fifth day on the mound, and Skaggs helps children who look up to him just as he looked up to that magical 2002 title team.

"I'm definitely living out my dream," Skaggs said. "And part of that is giving back to the community. It's something that's important to me."

The latest example of Skaggs' involvement in positive off-the-field endeavors came at the Angels' annual children's holiday party on Dec. 13 at ESPN Zone in Downtown Disney. The shindig was thrown by the Angels Baseball Foundation and the team's radio station, 830 AM, and Skaggs was joined by former Angels great Chuck Finley, coaches Dino Ebel and Steve Soliz, team trainer Rick Smith and radio personality Roger Lodge, who emceed the event.

A group of more than 200 children from various groups in the Orange County area including Olive Crest, Kidworks, Orangewood Children's Home and several local Boys & Girls Clubs reveled in some afternoon hours of holiday joy.

"I always feel comfortable around these kids," Skaggs said. "I didn't grow up with a lot of money. I went to the Boys & Girls Club as a kid a lot, too. I hung out with and made friends with all kinds of kids with different backgrounds.

"I never got a chance to meet Major League Baseball players when I was that age, so it's really cool to be a part of it."

The party featured children playing "Santa Says" with Skaggs and the other Angels representatives, plus a question-and-answer talk, autographs, video games and take-home gifts that included an Angels hat and shirt for each child, plus a toy and a pair of pajamas from Magical Builders' Jamma Jingles program.

For Skaggs, it's an event that always hits home. He grew up in Santa Monica, Calif., which has its pockets of affluence as well as some grittier areas. Skaggs was schooled at a very early age about respecting everyone, regardless of background, by an extremely qualified teacher: his mom, Debbie.

Debbie Skaggs has been a staple at Santa Monica High School, Tyler's alma mater, which has an active enrollment of 3,500. As an educator and softball coach for more than 25 years, she passed along to her son the virtues of inclusion and tolerance.

He is more than happy to mingle with his young fans and pass along those values whenever he can.

"When it comes to sports, kids are everything," Skaggs said. "Without them, there will be no future for baseball or any other sport.

"So I'll always do things like this."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.