It was like a scene from a Hallmark movie: the young man swung the little boy in his arms, twirling him around amid the gleeful giggles. Only this was better than a Hallmark movie, because it was real.
Nick Hundley, catcher for the San Diego Padres, along with other professional athletes, spent the day on Saturday, February 5 at SuperFest, an event hosted by The Rock Church. Hundley engaged not only with the little boy, but thousands of other young athletes wide-eyed in the presence of their heroes. Some of the pros in attendance were Quentin Jammer and Jacques Cesaire of the Chargers, Hundley and Heath Bell of the Padres, and Chris Byrd, an Olympic boxer and former world champ.
The athletes not only spent the day hanging out with their biggest fans, but spreading words of wisdom on how they live on and off the field like champions. They espouse a character that seems to be in sharp contrast to most professional athletes highlighted in the media today.
There were fans of all ages and type, from sons to fathers, and daughters to mothers. Especially the younger ones, they had no shame in showing their devotion to their favorite athletes. Wherever the men went, there was a crowd thicker than fog.
I want to meet all the players, Alexander Armenta, 10 year-old sports fan said. I especially want to learn how to box. I want to try boxing.
With such a wide variety of professional talent, there was something for everyone, no matter which sport they loved. In order to understand the energy of the event, one needs to look no further than the heart of those involved. Hundley, catcher of the San Diego Padres was seen throughout the day with various children hanging off his arms like monkeys from a tree. He spent the day playing catch, signing autographs, and simply interacting with his fans.
Its what God asks, Hundley said. Im not on this earth to play baseball. I think He has a bigger plan for me than that, for all of us. I want to spread His Word and further His kingdom.
Faith in Jesus Christ was the motivator for all these men. Each gave all the glory to Him and showed extraordinary humility about all they have accomplished.
For former heavyweight champ Chris Byrd was preparing for what he called, The fight of his life, when he started reading through the book of Acts. That's when God spoke to him through His Word and changed him forever. The Lord protected me in that fight against dangerous punches, says Byrd. He hasn't stopped serving God since.
For many of these athletes, this was not a one-time event, but part of their on-going commitment to give back to the community. Quentin Jammer started The Jammer Family Foundation for underprivileged and foster kids, Adrian Gonzalez founded The Adrian and Betsy Gonzalez Foundation also for underprivileged youth and Jacques Cesaire began the J.C.s Kids Mentorship Program for struggling youth. Cesaire also reveals that his servants heart is rooted in the Bible.
I do this because of John 13, Cesaire said. I believe were here to serve and if everybody really just did something for someone else we can get away from all the selfishness. I want kids to be leaders and not feel like thy have to do what the other kids are doing. I want to help shape kids with high character.
The day ended as the athletes and Pastor Miles McPherson gave their closing remarks. For the young sports fans the day was much more than bettering their athletic skills. They got the chance to learn what really matters. For the athletes, they got the chance to provide something very needed to so many impressionable kids: no matter how big the paycheck, being a champion requires on-field ability as well as off-the-field character.