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Black History Month

Gary Sheffield

By TOM JONES
Published February 3, 2004

photo
Sheffield

AGE: 35. CLAIM TO FAME: One of the best baseball players to hail from the Tampa Bay area. He made a name for himself as 12-year-old, leading Tampa's Belmont Heights to the Little League World Series in 1981. After being a first-round pick by the Brewers in 1986, Sheffield has carved out a marvelous career. Playing for five teams, Sheffield has hit at least 20 homers in a season 11 times and has driven in 100 runs six times. He was a member of the Marlins' 1997 World Series champion team. Off the field, Sheffield's numbers have been just as impressive. He has donated time and money to a variety of area charities, particularly his church (Without Walls International Church) and the Belmont Little League he helped make famous. Early in his career, Sheffield was occasionally criticized for being surly and he admits his demeanor in those days led to a bad reputation. But he made an effort to be more outgoing and said he is a different person than when he first broke into the major leagues. Most notably, he has put his money where his mouth is, donating what he estimates to be "millions" to various charities over the years.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "I don't think people realize what a good person he is, what a generous person. I haven't seen him in years, but if I was in trouble, he's the kind of person I could call. If I said, "Gary, I've lost my job, I'm hurting, I need $20,000,' I'll bet he wouldn't think twice about helping."

- former major-league manager Greg Riddoch, who managed Sheffield in San Diego, told the Times in 2002.

DID YOU KNOW?: Sheffield is the nephew of former major-league pitcher Dwight Gooden.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Sheffield is still going strong. After batting .330 with 39 homers and 132 RBIs last season for Atlanta, Sheffield was one of the blue chip, if not the most sought after, free agent in the offseason. He signed a three-year, $39-million deal with the Yankees.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: "If I can help someone then I want to help. I've been blessed. I have the money and the name, and if I can help, then that's my responsibility. It isn't about black and white. It's about kids. It's about people. We're all in this together."

[Last modified February 3, 2004, 06:06:05]


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