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Andre Ethier talks goals, following dreams with local youth

Former ASU baseball player Andre Ethier talks to children at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Diana Lustig)
Former ASU baseball player Andre Ethier talks to children at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Diana Lustig)

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier remembers attending community events and listening to his baseball idols as a kid. He remembers sitting in the audience and hanging on every word, but what reverberates with him most is the lifelong impact a baseball player can have on a group of kids by sharing just 30 minutes of their time.

Miles from where he grew up and blocks from where he now calls home, the former ASU baseball standout spent his Saturday speaking to, and fielding questions from, a gymnasium full of children at the Chandler/Gilbert Family YMCA.

“I can still picture myself being in the stands,” Ethier said. “You hold on to those memories and take key things from what athletes say. Anytime you get to talk to kids it’s special, but this is my home. Los Angeles is my season home, but it will never be somewhere I settle down. This is my home.”

The YMCA brought Ethier to headline its “Family Fun Fitness Day,” which was held in 17 locations across the state. The audience consisted of YMCA members, their families and little leaguers from the area.

“For the kids to see he grew up here in Phoenix and he still lives here in the offseason, I think that was special,” YMCA Executive Director Steve Hewitt said. “He’s not just a celebrity from Los Angeles, he’s someone who grew up here.”

One by one, children stepped up to the larger-than-life Phoenix native to ask questions into a microphone for the audience to hear.

Former Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Junior Spivey brought his family to the event, and his son aptly asked Ethier who his all-time favorite D-backs player is.

One of the most memorable moments of the visit happened when a YMCA Zumba instructor asked the Major League Baseball All-Star to dance with her. Ethier obliged while the audience burst into laughter.

“What a super neat guy just to jump into the Zumba thing on the fly,” Hewitt said. “He was a great guy just for him to volunteer to come out here. It really gave us an opportunity to show what the YMCA is about and that is social responsibility, youth development and healthy living.”

Ethier spent the serious moments focusing on his jagged road to the major leagues. A graduate of St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, Ethier dreamed of playing at ASU.  He first had to play at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

“There were no Diamondbacks growing up so if you liked baseball in Phoenix, you liked ASU,” Ethier said. “I went to so many games as a kid. Its tradition and the success the program has had, kids want to be associated with it.

“The track record for players moving on to the next level afterwards speaks for itself. It doesn’t get enough notoriety for what its brought to the school. If you ask anyone around the country, ASU is synonymous with its baseball program.”

Ethier flourished as a Sun Devil, finishing his Tempe career with a .371 batting average and 118 RBIs. He also met his wife, Maggie, a former gymnast at ASU, while he was playing at the school. The two are still heavily involved with Sun Devil athletics and credit much of their success to ASU.

“It shows you the ties we have to ASU,” Ethier said. “It’s not only our alma mater, it’s a place very special to us for so many reasons.”

Before leaving, Ethier left the crowd of wide-eyed onlookers with one last piece of advice.

“You have to dream big and believe you can do it,” he said. “No dream is big enough. Whatever makes you happy, you believe it and keep going after it. Anything can happen, just keep your mind focused.”


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