April 4, 2007
At an early point in his career, Auburn head baseball coach Tom Slater became thankful for the Boys and Girls Club and it came shortly after the organization in Richmond, Va., gave him his first coaching job more than 15 years ago.
That job opened the door to a career that led Slater to a head coaching position in what is arguably the best baseball conference in America and immediately upon arriving at that job, Slater came up with an idea to give back.
Tuesday night at Plainsman Park prior to the Auburn-South Alabama game, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County participated in the ceremonial first pitch after receiving a donation of more than $3,100 from the Auburn baseball program and the Auburn Diamond Club. The donation was the result of a fall orange-blue scrimmage and home run derby each of the past three years to benefit the organization.
"I think it's a great organization," Slater said. "It gives kids a place to go after school and participate in sports, among other things. I want to do everything I can to help out the Boys and Girls Club because they gave me an opportunity to coach. I had a great time working with those kids, so this is something that is dear to my heart."
When Slater arrived at Auburn in 2004, the baseball program already held a fall scrimmage but Slater modified the structure of the event, adding an honorary head coach for each team from the Auburn Diamond Club and a home run derby. Each derby team consisted of an auburn player and a notable personality from the Auburn community. The teams were sponsored by area organizations and companies who donated money for each home run hit. Donations were also taken at the gate and fans gave generously for a good cause.
"It means a lot to have someone like Coach Slater who has been affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club earlier in his career to remember that and come back to us," said Wanda Lewis, who is the President of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County. "It means even more to the organization to have people in the community who are concerned about the development of our young people and interested in providing them with positive experiences and opportunities. We feel very fortunate that Auburn and the Diamond Club chose to work with us. It takes resources and efforts like this one from the community to support what we do."
"The primary purpose of the Auburn Diamond Club is to support Auburn baseball in any appropriate way," said Maury Matthews, a member of the Auburn Diamond Club who was on hand Tuesday night. "This activity was something we were excited about for two reasons. One, this was an activity that Coach Slater wanted the team to get involved in to benefit the community; and two, it allows us to get the word out about Auburn baseball. "
The Boys and Girls Club plans to use the funds to support its athletics programs. Lewis said that the money would go primarily for equipment and other things that most young athletes take for granted. Two young men who are members of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lee County and were on hand to participate in the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday night, Zay Roulhge and Jaquan Milner, have a great understanding of what this generosity means for them.
"The Boys and Girls Club provides me opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise," Roulhge said. "The discipline and responsibility we get through sports is one of the things that can make us into better men and women. The support of the Auburn fans is a big help for us."
"Being a part of the Boys and Girls Club has been a great help for me," Milner said. "I look forward to being able to get involved in more activities because of this donation."
Both Zay and Jaquan prefer basketball to baseball. But much like the Boys and Girls Club did for Coach Slater, the Auburn baseball program and its supporters may have opened a door or two for them.