I am honored to be accepting this year’s Torch Award for personal achievement and philanthropic work from the Bo and Stacey Porter SELF Foundation. In its third year, the annual Legacy Award Gala is the primary fundraiser for the Texas foundation, which is making great headway providing a myriad of positive educational, health and social services for young people in his adopted home of Houston.
Bo, a product of Newark, New Jersey, the former manager of the Houston Astros baseball club, and presently coach for the Atlanta Braves, recently shared a story in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, about his connection with me that I did not know. He shared that when he was 9 years old, back in the 80’s, when his Little League coach took his team to watch the New York Yankees play in the Bronx. As luck would have it the kids made their way down close to the field. They caught my eye and I came over to talk and sign some autographs for them. He said that the little time I spent with his group, and the few words of inspiration I shared, gave him in particular the confidence that he too could reach these heights, be a role model and give back if he applied himself.
From that day on he believed he could become a professional baseball player, and as fate and planning would have it….he did. He made it to the big leagues for the Oakland A’s. Although his career as a catcher was short, he remained close to the game as a coach and later a manager. For an African American, that achievement is rarer than being a player. He attained that managerial job once, and today it remains high on his ‘to do’ list again.
On Thursday, November 19th I will gladly accept his foundation Torch Award, as on it states, “For extraordinary accomplishments in sports, in the community, and for being an exemplary role model to many. To those who may not know me well, to receive an honor like this means a great deal to me. It says that what I’ve learned over the years, I’ve not only passed that on, but I continue making a resounding difference in the lives of others.
I look forward to speaking to his capacity crowd and delivering a message of hope and inspiration, and seeing many of family members in attendance that now live in that area. If my mother were alive today, she’d tell me what she always told me during a long distance phone call or in person, “Give it 100%, and I love you”. I carry those words with me always, and I’ll share that with the group when I speak. This honor is part of validating that my life has been a life worth living, and provides a reason for giving back to others as well.