At bat for kids: Arizona’s Escobar driven to give back
PHOENIX – Baseball has a storied history of superstitions. Players put on their socks the same way every day. Pitchers rely on a ritual before every start.
Eduardo Escobar has a routine, too. It’s engaging with the community as much as possible. He’s so committed, the Diamondbacks say, he constantly badgers them about attending more events.
“Everybody knows that Eduardo Escobar was an unbelievable addition to the Diamondbacks,” said Debbie Castaldo, the Diamondbacks’ Vice President of Corporate and Community Impact. “What you may not realize is how special he is off the field.”
The Diamondbacks third baseman is batting .285 with a team-leading 58 RBIs. He is equally engaged away from the ballpark, where he frequently attends community events where he can connect with children.
“I see these kids and smile and play around, for me it’s the most important part of my life,” Escobar said Tuesday at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix – MLB All Star D-Backs Branch. “Especially coming from nothing, having a poor family, now is why I like helping people, why I like (to) play with kids. The Arizona community, I like it, I’m feeling so blessed here, taking time, coming to play with kids to support me. Every time I see one kid smile is a blessed day for me.”
At the age of 7, Escobar found a passion for baseball. Growing up in Venezuela with an absent father, he had to grow up quickly.
While his mother of six children worked as a housekeeper, he worked a variety of jobs at a young age, from bagging groceries to cleaning shoes. He didn’t receive a full education.
The hardships at the beginning of Escobar’s life shaped him into the person he is. A person with interests far beyond baseball.
The joy brought to him by a few hours with a group of kids outweighs anything on the field, he said. Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has seen it firsthand.
“When baseball players get into the routine of their day, they don’t tend to get off that routine,” he said. “They want to rest their body and their mind. They want to get to the ballpark fully equipped to play in a baseball game. But Eduardo’s day-to-day operations include his children and the extended children around him that need love and support outside of his own family.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see how consistent he is getting out to this community and actually searching out different communities that he can impact. He gives of himself more than anybody I’ve really been around as far as making sure those around him are provided for. He’s a pretty special human being for that.”
At one of his weekly trips to the organization’s Boys and Girls Club branch, the generosity of Escobar revealed itself quickly. Every child that filled the bleachers received a Diamondbacks hat from Escobar or another person from the team, but when a girl with a leg injury seated in a chair away from the stands didn’t receive a hat initially, Escobar made the extra steps to give her one.
Between playing basketball, riding on large bouncing balls or helping his wife, Eucaris, pitch foam baseballs, the connection with the kids and Escobar never seemed forced.
“The thing I love most about Eduardo Escobar is everything he does for the community comes from the heart,” Castaldo said. “He talks to the kids about his upbringing in Venezuela. He talks about struggling with a single mom when they didn’t have any money. He talks about getting a job at seven years old and he only talks about getting an education through eighth grade.”
Change is never easy. Escobar, however, jumped right in to learn about the Phoenix community after he left the Twins.
“When they traded me, the first thing I experienced was the people here were so nice,” Escobar said. “I did this in Minnesota, too. When I came here, from the coach to the players, everyone was so nice to me and my family. I continue what I did in Minnesota, I continue what I do in Venezuela with my foundation helping people. For me, this is my life.”
Handfuls of children scurried for Sharpies at the club Tuesday to acquire an autograph from Escobar. He signed his name with a smile every time.
“I (will) never forget where I come from because I (will) never forget the people who helped me when I had nothing,” Escobar said. “Now, as a professional baseball player, nobody says (this is) mandatory. I do it because I feel it in my heart. I want to see people smile, I want to see people happy with their life.”