Rays right-hander Chris Archer was reading Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" in 2012 when the realization came to him. The novel mentioned that people have something called a "personal legend." That's when he realized his personal legend was his influence as a professional athlete.
"I felt like I am here on this Earth to inspire people, not just play baseball," Archer said. "I am going to use baseball and successes in baseball to inspire people."
Archer capitalized on another opportunity to help others on Tuesday morning, when he, Tim Beckham, Mallex Smith and Pirates first baseman Josh Bell visited the Pittsburgh RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program in Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood. Pittsburgh RBI provides baseball and softball activities to more than 1,000 children in underserved communities in Pittsburgh, while also encouraging them to achieve academic success.
"[It's great] just knowing that there is a program out there that is interested in inner-city kids and kids a little less fortunate financially having the right tools to play the game," Smith said. "I spend a lot of my time with the youth and working with them hands on more so that they can see my face … see that I am a real person just like them."
Smith's teammate Archer has been involved with the program for three seasons now. He has visited programs in Baltimore, Seattle, Cleveland, Detroit and Harlem, among others.
"For me, it's always a lot of fun," Archer said. "Even if my schedule is a little busy, it's always something I make time for."
And he made time Tuesday to sign autographs and pose for photos with kids. He, Beckham, Smith and Bell spoke to the kids for about an hour, sharing their own stories playing baseball. But they also made sure to emphasize the importance of succeeding outside the diamond.They stressed the importance of doing well in the classroom, saying that it's cool to be the kid who does well in school.
They also took time to answer questions the kids had for them. And before they left for PNC Park, they took one last photo.
"Whether I impact 100 kids or one, that's the reason I am there," Archer said. "I am happy either way."
Jonathan Toye is an associate beat reporter for MLB.com centered in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.