By: Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network
Mere weeks removed from truly re-establishing himself as one of Toronto's top blue chip prospects following a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League, Anthony Alford was dealt a tough hand as 2016 drew to a close.
In the early hours of the morning on December 28, a ferocious blaze engulfed his family's home in Columbia, Miss. Although there were no injuries, the fire took with it virtually everything his mother, father and younger sister owned.
Included in the loss was nearly every major award or piece of significant memorabilia Alford had accrued during his career as an athlete, both as an amateur and professional. State championship rings, trophies, jerseys, the former Mississippi Mr. Baseball had given them all to his parents as a token of appreciation for always supporting and pushing him to succeed in sports.
Selected out of high school by the Blue Jays in the third round of 2012' June draft, Alford was a two-sport athlete who excelled on both the gridiron and the diamond. Prior to his first year of draft eligibility, the now 22-year-old outfielder made clear his intentions to play collegiate football and entered the selection process with signability concerns attached to his name. It was for this reason alone that Toronto was able to scoop him up in the third round. Realistically, his unique blend of speed and power easily dictated a first round selection.
Understanding his talent and outspoken desire to continue playing football, the Blue Jays remained flexible with their draft pick and allowed him to suit up for the University of Southern Mississipi (and later Ole Miss) during the school year while transitioning back to baseball during the summer.
2016 marked his fifth season in professional baseball. To date, the 6'1" speedster has slashed .266/.370/.400 with 56 stolen bases in 69 tries over five stops on the Blue Jays minor league ladder. This fall, he joined the Mesa Solar Sox and played a key role in helping the AFL affiliate capture a league title by driving in 15 runs over his 23 games with the club.
Alford has made a lot of friends over his four years in the Blue Jays organization. When they first heard of his families loss, those friends were among the first to offer a hand and spread awareness.
On January 2, Alford's wife created a GoFundMe page aimed at helping offset some of the financial strain caused by the recent fire.
As of Friday morning, the website has received over 200 individual donations that, combined, accumulate just under $15,000. A quick glance at the donators tab on the website reveals contributions from many fans, bloggers, key front office individuals, teammates, coaches and a handful of prominent Blue Jays alumni.
In addition to the GoFundMe page, Alford has also received the help of Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis, local recording artist Karl Wolf, mixed martial artist Misha Cirkunov and a handful of other Torontonian's who kindly donated their time to a fundraiser held a few blocks north of Rogers Centre on Wednesday.
The recent outpouring of support is sure to have left a lasting effect on Alford and his family. An effect that he plans on fully acknowledging as a pivotal member of this organization in the years to come.
If you wish to donate to the cause, details are available via this link.