One afternoon spent in his grandmother's kitchen stands out more than others to Colorado Rockies pitcher, LaTroy Hawkins.
As a child, Hawkins grew up under his grandmother, Lesley Cannon's, care. The two lived in Gary, Ind., a place known for its steel mills and being the birthplace of the Jackson 5. In the Gary, Ind. kitchen of a woman who was a caretaker for many, Hawkins' passion for giving back to the needy was also born.
"I was sitting in my grandmother's kitchen. Her back was to the backdoor. I was looking toward where the refrigerator was located, when a little kid walked in, went into the refrigerator and walked out. It was a little Caucasian kid in Gary, which was predominantly black. I asked my grandmother who the little kid was. It turns out that his family lived across the alley from us and was using our refrigerator, because their lights and electricity had been shut off. My grandmother told me that I was always going to find a place where I needed to help. My grandma's house was one where you could always come and find food to eat if you needed something," Hawkins recalled.
Since leaving Gary, Hawkins has gone on to have a successful 20-year career in MLB. He's seen stops in all corners of the United States--from Minnesota to Houston and New York to Colorado. Along the way, though, Hawkins has always carried with him his grandmother's lesson of being generous and kind towards others.
"She always said everyone needs help. It doesn't matter how famous you become or how much money you make, people always need help. If you're able to give them help, why wouldn't you?" Hawkins said.
As Hawkins approaches the twilight of his career, he and other MLB players are going to deep lengths to shed light on the needs of world's most impoverished and the hunger they face.
This season, Hawkins is one of a number of MLB players who has taken the Live Below the Line challenge. During the challenge, Hawkins and others spent only $1.50 on food for five consecutive days. The purpose of the challenge is to bring awareness to the 1.2 billion people worldwide who live in extreme poverty. The World Bank defines those living at or below the extreme poverty line as being individuals who survive on less than $1.50 a day. These individuals not only purchase their daily food for $1.50, but also must pay for health, transportation, toiletries, education and other expenses with that amount.
Hawkins remembers his early days in the league, when he and other players would gather during Spring Training for expensive meals at lavish steakhouses. These days, though, he thinks twice and focuses upon those living in great poverty before spending hefty sums on single meals.
"The Live Below the Line challenge correlates with this being my last year playing in MLB. Last year and the year before I bought some things I really didn't need. Doing this challenge helped me realize that a lot of stuff I want, I don't need. It makes me think about spending money during Spring Training at expensive steakhouses. This year, I wouldn't go when other players would. Spending $2,000 on dinner for one night is just ridiculous. You're spending that kind of money when there are people who are starving. You could make an impact with that money instead of doing that with it," Hawkins noted.
So, what does a professional athlete eat during in-season competition when he only has $1.50 to spend each day?
"I slept through breakfast. For lunch, I had Ramen noodles. For dinner, I had Ramen noodles. I was on the road and used faucet water that I put in the coffee maker to get my water hot and put my cup of Ramen noodles under it," Hawkins said.
Hawkins is quick to wonder how a lack of proper nutrition might impact one's ability to live out their full potential in athletics.
"What I eat is very important to me. It helps with my recovery and keeping me healthy. The healthier you are, the better production you have on the field. Having a healthy diet goes far beyond professional sports. You want to live a good life where you don't have to be dependent on medicine. I'm a true believer that our food is the real cure for illnesses," he said.
Hawkins is one of 30,000 people worldwide to take the Live Below the Line challenge. Nearly $400,000 has been raised through the challenge this year to support some of the world's leading anti-poverty organizations. Hawkins says that when some fans found out via his social media accounts that he was eating Ramen noodles, "they were making jokes about it, until they got educated about the campaign."
What would his grandmother say, though?
"She would be proud of me, because she always taught me to be kind to people."
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