Pompey, Alford realize they have a responsibility to help

Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), seen here taking batting practice in Dunedin, uses his platform as an athlete to help others. Photos: Matt Antonacci. 

Blue Jays outfielder Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), seen here taking batting practice in Dunedin, uses his platform as an athlete to help others. Photos: Matt Antonacci. 

J.P. Antonacci
Canadian Baseball Network

A professional athlete’s playing career, no matter how glorious, doesn’t last forever. With that in mind, Toronto Blue Jays outfielders Anthony Alford and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) are making the most of their time in the spotlight to impact other people’s lives.

When he’s not honing his skill on the diamond, it’s not unusual to see Alford, one of Toronto’s top prospects, signing autographs and posing for photos with fans lined up along the fence by the Jays clubhouse in Dunedin.

The chance to meet players in a relaxed setting is what draws many Canadian snowbirds to Florida for spring training, and the unfailingly polite Alford is happy to oblige them. 

“I would stand out there and sign autographs all day if I had the time to,” said the soft-spoken outfielder from Mississippi, who played college football before turning his full attention to baseball in 2014.

Making a fan’s day by signing an autograph is something Blue Jays prospect Anthony Alford loves about being a pro baseball player.

Making a fan’s day by signing an autograph is something Blue Jays prospect Anthony Alford loves about being a pro baseball player.

Drawing inspiration from his Christian faith, Alford says his goal in life is to provide a good example for others to follow.

“The guys in this locker room are put on a stage, and I feel like we can impact somebody’s life. At the end of the day, there’s going to come a point in time where you stop playing baseball, but how you impacted those lives while you were playing baseball is what really matters,” he said. 

“Do you want to have a successful career and take care of your family? Of course. But just look at the big picture – if I can make someone’s day by just signing my name on a ball or taking a picture, then I’m going to do it.”

Pompey’s offseason featured several examples of how small acts can make a big difference. To celebrate his 24th birthday on Dec. 11, Pompey walked around downtown Toronto, handing out Tim Hortons cards to people in need. 

In a social media post, the Mississauga native explained that instead of hosting a lavish birthday party for himself, he wanted to give to others. 

(Editor’s Note: We’re not sure how PPIF -- Pompey’s Pay It Forward -- worked but one old curator of a Canadian baseball web site tried it ... and it felt pretty good giving out cards to people in Mississauga and Moncton.) 

“I have a lot to be thankful for in my life and there’s no better way for me to thank God for blessing me than trying to make someone else’s day,” Pompey wrote. “There’s no better gift than the gift of kindness.”

On January 25, Pompey hopped on Twitter to raise awareness of Bell Let’s Talk Day, which sees Bell Canada donate five cents to mental health initiatives for each tweet with the hash tag #BellLetsTalk. 

Pompey personally tweeted his support and shared hundreds of other #BellLetsTalk tweets, raising money and earning the admiration of social media users impressed with his high-profile contribution to the effort. 

Asked why that particular cause hits home, Pompey talked about childhood friends of his who contended with mental health challenges.

“These were just kids I was growing up with in grade school, but I didn’t know how to handle it,” he said after making his spring training debut on Wednesday.

“Being able to do this, raise the awareness, gives people (struggling with mental illness) an opportunity to be like, ‘It’s okay, I can speak out. Nobody’s going to judge me on whatever’s going on.’”

Alford and Pompey agree that being blessed with the talent to play baseball at a high level comes with the responsibility to help others. 

“We’re not athletes forever, so I just try to use my platform to help people. If it takes three hours of my time to make a difference, I’m going to do it,” Pompey said.

“Doing the small things is what matters. That’s what’s going to separate the good and the great – not as a baseball player, but as a person,” Alford added. “If you can consistently do those small things, the big stuff will take of itself.”