Archer passionate about 'inspiring youth'

While traveling, pitcher regularly donates time to kids' programs

Archer passionate about 'inspiring youth'

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Dinner, sleep, TV and maybe a little shopping is the norm for a Major Leaguer on the road. Which makes Chris Archer the exception.

When the Rays right-hander travels to different cities, he looks forward to paying a visit to the local RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program.

"It's just a cool, fun way to impact and to inspire the youth," Archer said. "Baseball is my platform, so there's an easy, congruent connection there.

"It's just my time, a donation of my time, 30 minutes or an hour, and it goes a long way. The Rays never ask me to do a crazy amount. I usually just suggest what I want to do, and they set it up."

Archer allowed that it has been humbling to have audiences interested in what he has to say.

"That's why I like to take advantage of it," Archer said. "I recognize that people are open. I'm grateful for it. Honestly, it helps me be a better person, too. Because I can't be a hypocrite.

"I can't go over here and tell these kids to make the right decisions in life, and then be a lowlife myself. When I step out of the house, I want to represent my parents, Ron and Donna Archer, but at the same time, I want to represent the kids I speak to as well. And not just be a voice, but be an example."

Archer's goal is to help motivate the kids he visits.

"I'm not trying to inspire them to be professional athletes, but inspire them to become successful in whatever they want to be in life," Archer said.

Major League Baseball is constantly struggling to draw more black athletes to baseball rather than to other sports. From talking to the kids -- and listening -- Archer believes MLB is on target.

"I think Major League Baseball is taking the right steps," Archer said. "At the end of the day, a lot of it comes down to choice. And a lot of it's not on Major League Baseball. They have some great programs in place. But there's so many other sports to choose from as opposed to other countries.

"In the Dominican [Republic], Venezuela, the Caribbean, baseball is what you play. You don't play anything else. We have special athletes who play everything and have the opportunity to get scholarships."

Starting Right, Now dorm opening

Archer had an interesting take on where some of the problem is rooted.

"I don't know if it's as much on MLB as it is on NCAA in increasing the baseball scholarships," Archer said. "It's really tough to get a baseball scholarship and if you do, you still have to pay 50 percent. So if you're trying to get a top-level education at Vanderbilt, UNC, Duke, any of those schools, you're going to end up paying $25,000, $30,000 if you do get a 50 percent scholarship. So I think maybe NCAA needs to step up and do something different with their scholarship program."

While Archer treasures his RBI involvement, he also craves deeper relationships with those he talks to, which is why he's gotten involved with Starting Right, Now, a program that strives to end homelessness for youth through one-on-one mentoring, providing a stable home, obtaining employment, teaching financial literacy and life skills and promoting educational achievement.

"Seeing the passion that all the people who work for the organization have, I think I have an equal amount of passion, and now I feel like I've found a program that parallels everything I'm about," Archer said. "Altering and inspiring the youth and helping to change the world."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.