Beckham steps to the plate for Parkinson's
Rising star pledges donation for each home run
CHICAGO -- Whether the in-game daily results were three home runs or three strikeouts, Gordon Beckham knew there was one important fan who always was there cheering him on as he grew up as baseball player and as a young man.
"One thing he always did, my dad would tell me, he never missed one of my dad's games growing up, and when he could, he never missed a game of mine," said Beckham of his dad's stepfather, whom he considers his grandfather. "He was always in the stands, whether it was a good game or when I didn't want to talk after a bad game, he was always there. I'm very fortunate to have him around."
On Wednesday, Beckham paid tribute to his supportive and loving grandfather, who has been living with Parkinson's disease for the past decade. In a morning press conference at the U.S. Cellular Field Conference and Learning Center, the talented second baseman announced his "Out of the Park for Parkinson's" campaign, during which Beckham will make a donation to the National Parkinson Foundation for every home run that he hits during the 2010 season.
This endeavor by Beckham is done in partnership with the National Parkinson Foundation to help end Parkinson's disease. And Beckham is asking for fans to lend their collective support.
Donations can be made as a Per Home Run Pledge Superstar. Other categories are World Series Champion, where a $1,000 donation guarantees a ticket to attend a postseason bash with Beckham, as well as donation levels of $250, $100 and $50.
The charitable idea for Beckham actually began developing at the end of the 2009 season. He started the charity off strong by donating $10,000 in grant money from the Major League Baseball Players Trust coming about from Beckham being selected by his peers as the 2009 Players Choice American League Rookie of the Year.
"He's been pretty influential in my life. He's always been around," said Beckham of his grandfather, who also lives in Atlanta. "It's something that is very easy for me to do because of how close I am.
"It's something that when you are around a man fully capable of everything and then to be really kind of hindered by a certain disease, it's been tough to see him with the disease. He was active. He didn't go out and run a lot. But you could tell, he started to shake and was not able to control himself some times."
All proceeds benefit the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF), a national, non-profit organization that funds research, education and outreach programs to improve the lives of people with Parkinson's disease. NPF has a strong presence in Chicago, Ill., supporting the work of Northwestern University's Parkinson's disease and Movement Disorder Center, NPF Center of Excellence, as well as the local NPF chapter, the Parkinson Association of Illinois (PAIL).
Even factoring in this personal connection for Beckham, a player with less than one year of professional service time isn't usually the one to come up with charitable causes. Beckham clearly is wise beyond his years, though, giving back to those who support him.
"I've been extremely blessed in my life to be where I am now and have the upbringing I did," said Beckham, whose cause also received a $5,000 donation from the White Sox on Wednesday. "It's only natural you give back and that's something I'm glad to be getting a chance to do."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.