David DeJesus makes the most of his time in the spotlight
By DAVID DEJESUS January 15, 2013 6:34PM
Kim, Kingston and David DeJesus | Rich Marks
Updated: January 16, 2013 7:24AM
Playing in the Major Leagues has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so you can imagine my excitement at being drafted by the New York Mets in 1997 straight out of high school. At that time, however, I felt I was not mentally or physically ready to become a professional baseball player. I wanted to mature and I also thought going to college was important. I enrolled at Rutgers University and hoped the chance to play professional baseball would present itself again. My time finally came when the Kansas City Royals chose me in the 4th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball draft.
When I joined the Cubs in 2011, I was so excited to play for one of the most storied franchises with the best and most loyal fans in the world. It didn’t hurt to be playing for Kim’s hometown team — she grew up in Wheaton — and to have family and friends close by, either. I want to be a part of the team that makes history in Chicago and brings a pennant to our most deserving fans.
As I have come to understand, being a professional athlete puts you in the spotlight. This can be good sometimes, but other times it’s not so good. It might be an amazing play that helped win a close game and is highlighted on the evening news, or the simple error made in a tough loss that will be remembered and replayed for years on end. But one thing is for sure: The attention that is given to players at this level of the game enables someone like me, a young Puerto Rican boy from Jersey, to make a difference in the lives of others.
Whether it’s visiting sick children at a hospital, greeting veterans, or talking to kids at schools or baseball clinics, I’ve witnessed the magic in a smile, a handshake and a hug … and I want to do more.
By day (and sometimes night) my duties are on the field as a Chicago Cub, but it’s off the field where I can help those who might be struggling. My wife Kim and I have formed The David DeJesus Family Foundation (DDFF), which is committed to helping families throughout Chicago and the rest of the world who lack access to basic human necessities. Our goal is to support the many causes and organizations that help those suffering from sickness, disease and poverty.
One cause very close to our hearts is ALS (often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). Our dear friend Brian was diagnosed about three years ago. While there is no known cure or cause, those diagnosed are normally given three to five years to live, and during that time they lose muscle control. Since ALS is a disease that does not affect the brain, patients are fully aware of their bodies’ degeneration, yet are helpless to its symptoms. This is a battle not only for Brian, but also for his family, who must witness his struggling. As you can imagine, we had such a hard time accepting this news.
We want to give ALS a voice in this city, so our first fund-raiser, Strike a Pose, will be dedicated to research, patient care and family support for those suffering from the disease. The celebrity fashion show is Thursday night and features Cubs players — both past and present — and their wives walking the runway. Guests will enjoy cocktails and food from some of Chicago’s hottest restaurants.
We’re hoping to win one for Brian and his family. In this fashion show, may the spotlight shine on the fight against ALS and, ultimately, may a cure be in sight.
David DeJesus donated his fee for writing this column to his foundation, the David DeJesus Family Foundation. Strike a Pose will be held at the River East Arts Center (435 E. Illinois) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $250 at 773.404.CUBS and at Daviddejesusfamilyfoundation.org.