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Published Sat, Oct 27, 2012 08:00 PM
Modified Fri, Oct 26, 2012 07:47 PM

Pitching phenom remembers his roots

- newsobserver.com
Chris Archer talks to his pitching coach, Neil Allen, after practicing before a game on Wednesday, July 4, at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
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CLAYTON -- Correspondent

Chris Archer’s had an exciting year.

Professionally, he saw all his dreams come true. In June, the former Clayton High School athlete made his Major League Baseball debut pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. He played in six games, earning a 4.60 ERA.

Just days after hanging up his cleats at the end of the 2012 season, Archer, 24, was back in his hometown meeting with local civic and business leaders devising a way to give back to the community.

He says what’s most important is inspiring others to do well, something he learned from his own mentor, former CHS junior varsity coach Ron Walker.

“He’s helped me in every aspect of my life and has never asked for anything in return except to maximize myself as a person and then pass that on to somebody else,” Archer explained. “I want to inspire people to not only accomplish their goals but to help others just as Ron did for me.”

The two met up in early October to brainstorm ideas for how Archer could use his major league status as a platform to create a foundation that would impact others in Clayton and beyond. In early September, Archer was nominated as a finalist for the Erik Walker Community Champion Award, which recognizes a Rays minor league player who exemplifies teamwork, sportsmanship and community involvement. It is named after one of the team’s minor league pitchers, Erik Walker, who died tragically in an October 2006 canoeing accident.

Archer didn’t win the main prize but was awarded $500.

At Ron Walker’s suggestion, Archer approached Hometown Realty partner Barry Woodward for assistance to start up a foundation which would benefit local families during the holiday season. The two have partnered together to provide 25 turkeys this Thanksgiving to Clayton Area Ministries. In addition, they have vowed to sponsor a minimum of five Clayton families at Christmas.

While the specific details are still in the planning stages, Archer said he would like to see the beneficiaries receive a complete holiday – everything from food, clothing and new toys. He hopes these efforts can be expanded on in the coming years and turned into a full-fledged charity.

“Ten years from now I want to be helping hundreds of families in the area,” said Archer. “For now, I want to make it personal and hands on.”

“Right now he’s building credibility and next year we’ll start with more momentum” noted Barry Woodward. “What we know now it that there is an immediate need in the area. Chris has the desire to help those people.”

Woodward said they will identify those families through contacts at CAM, social services and local churches. He is asking his own employees to help donate to the program and seeking out other businesses and individuals to make it a success.

“I’m hoping to be an advisor and help him implement his ideas,” said Woodard. “He has re-energized me. I can really see big things coming out of this. I am really thankful that Chris wants to give back.”

Leigh Hudson, a local business owner and Rotary member, was quick to jump on board and offer his assistance.

“Chris is thinking forward and is very optimistic,” said Hudson. “He’s got the right mentality for not only baseball but for ways to help within the community.

Tom White of Mobile Fleet Services, 316 E. Main St, has also pledged monies from an upcoming fundraiser to support Archer’s cause. The company will host a cook out at their location at 1 p.m. on Dec. 1.

“It’s more than just me giving back,” Archer said. “It’s the entire town. I knew that I would be able to reach more people with everyone’s support.”

Archer says it’s been a phenomenal year, one that has seen many ups and downs professionally but is pleased to end it with an opportunity to provide blessings to others.

“Baseball doesn’t define me,” he said. “It’s just a means for me to give back. This feels like what I’m supposed to be doing. I have had a lot of support from this town and it’s the right time to give back.”

For more information on the program or ways to donate, call (919) 359-8868.

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