Last Thursday, when many players were resting up on their day off, Aaron Rowand was in Visitacion Valley, one of San Francisco’s poorest and most troubled neighborhoods.
Rowand wanted to learn about the Boys & Girls Club there, so he showed up at 3 p.m., in time to greet the children arriving from school. When the kids had settled at tables, Rowand served as the rock-paper-scissors judge to determine the order each table lined up for snacks. While he helped the club’s staff hand out snacks, he talked to the kids – who were 7 to 14 years old – about the many afternoons he spent at the neighborhood rec center when he was their age.
“My mom raised all three of us by herself and she worked full time,” Rowand told them. “If it wasn’t for the rec center, I would have gotten into a lot more trouble than I did. They had all kinds of games and activities, like they do here, so I was able to direct my energy into that instead of getting into trouble.”
After snack time, the kids launched into their homework, and for an hour Rowand moved from table to table, stopping to help the kids who needed it. Math and science were his favorite subjects, so he was happy when a fifth-grader asked for help with a math problem.
Rowand studied it and scribbled, trying to arrive at the answer by the process the girl had learned in school. He knew the answer – by figuring it out old-school — but was as stumped as the fifth-grader by “new math.” (Given Rowand’s doggedness, he was probably up half the night with a No. 2 pencil and a ream of notepaper working out the solution.)
At the end of the afternoon, Rowand invited all the kids out to a game as his guests. He signed autographs for everyone and talked to every kid who wanted to spend time with him. He promised to return and plans to visit other Boys & Girls Clubs around San Francisco.
“He was awesome,” said Shana Daum, the Giants’ director of public affairs and community relations, who accompanied Rowand to the club and watched him move among the children like a natural-born teacher.
“When I got to the major leagues, I decided I’d use my position to help others,” Rowand says. “I know how lucky I am that I got to realize my dream, and that others are not so lucky. Whether it’s right or wrong, people – especially kids – look up to us, so as long as I’m playing ball, I feel I have a great opportunity to have an impact.”
Photos courtesy of the SF Boys & Girls Club: