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With a string of wins on his stat sheet as an outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, Major League Baseball player Jose Bautista says his greatest victory is being able to help more than 30 students get to college — and graduate — through the assistance of his foundation, The Bautista Family Education Fund. The 34-year-old Dominican Republic native launched his nonprofit in 2011 to help student athletes of all backgrounds and sports achieve a higher education in the U.S. The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the All-Star and philanthropist — who on Aug. 10 hosted his third annual Jose Bautista Celebrity Golf Classic fundraiser at Eagle’s Nest in Maple, Ontario — about his passion for education and the surprising similarities between running a charity and playing baseball.
How did you get involved in charity work?
I got to the point in my career where I felt I needed to pay it back, and I wanted to pay it back. I had a long-term contract and success and was looking for a way to make an impact and not just write a check to a foundation and say you’re helping. I decided to replicate the same concept of a foundation (Latin Athlete’s Education Fund) that one time helped me and many other guys I know become student athletes in the U.S. I decided to replicate this foundation and help kids from all backgrounds, of all sports and of both sexes be student athletes by setting them up for success and providing financial assistance where it’s needed.
Why is education important to you?
Education has always been extremely important to me since I was a little boy. It’s something my parents instilled in me at an early age. I wasn’t allowed to play or go out with my friends without doing my homework. I actually struggled with getting good offers when I was signing as a professional coming out of high school in the Dominican, which normally isn’t a problem when you’re a good athlete. I think because my education was so important, I was looking for higher bonus amounts that would outweigh the value of [getting a college] education. I ran into some problems getting the best offers possible, and I never did, which is why I went to college.
In what ways is running a charity similar to playing baseball?
You’ve got to be resilient. You’ve got to keep your eye on the prize and not give up and deal with adversity. You would think it would be easier to help people, but it’s not. Baseball is similar in that way because you can do everything right and hit a ball well, but somebody could catch it, so the perspective is similar when you look at it through that point of view.
What student stories have stood out for you?
We’ve had one situation with one kid who wasn’t able to hold up his standards in the classroom and discipline-wise, and he had to basically go back home. He struggled with dealing with the fact that he was basically letting his last opportunity go by. He has recently written us a letter, and we’re going to give him a second chance to redeem himself and clean his act up. I’m looking forward to seeing what the outcome with him is going to be because if we can get him back on track, that’s going to be outstanding.
What makes up a good charity?
Having a clearly defined mission, sticking to that, developing great partnerships and surrounding yourself with good people who want to help and donate their time, allowing you to put 100 percent of the donations towards the mission.
You’ve won a lot of baseball games over the years. Where do the victories for your charity stand?
Being able to impact lives long term is something that is going to have repercussions for much longer than my playing days. It’s definitely going to be a part of my legacy that’s going to last a lot longer than anything I could ever do on the field.
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