Gibson intends to cede the field further
The Orioles wanted Kyle Gibson to cover more than innings from the rotation when they signed him as a free agent. They wanted to improve their odds of winning on the days he fielded. They wanted his leadership at a clubhouse losing influential veterans Jordan Lyles, Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos.
They were looking for a character type who would be as attracted to his makeup as he was to his arm.
Gibson was last year’s Phillies nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, presented annually to the player who best represents the sport through community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field.
According to Major League Baseball, Gibson raised more than $108,000 for charity during his 1 1/2 seasons at Philadelphia. His impact was immediate, his eligibility for the award undeniable.
Within his first week, Gibson invited teammates and fans to join him as he organized a campaign to support local families and children struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through his #ALLWIN initiative, he made a personal donation for every win and strike for the remainder of the season, with two local charities being the biggest benefactors – Cradles to Crayons, which supports low-income and homeless children, and Philabundance, , which serves those affected by food insecurity in the Philadelphia area.
Gibson was just getting started.
There was the charity fantasy football league that he moved to Philadelphia. The virtual fundraiser in support of Help One Now, an organization empowering families in the developing world to end extreme poverty. Training time donated last spring went to the Phillies Phantastic Auction to raise money for the Phillies Charities, Inc. Grant Fund and the ALS Association-Greater Philadelphia Chapter.
Last April, Gibson launched a new campaign #ALLWIN Philadelphia for Philabundance, the area’s largest hunger relief organization. A month later, a charity program began providing game tickets, meals, and trips to Phillies fans who may not have the funds to attend a baseball game.
A press release touting Gibson’s qualifications for the Roberto Clemente Award indicated how he would meet with South Philadelphia youth groups, youth baseball teams and the Philadelphia Chapter of the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. And how he co-founded a 2022 Philly Fantasy Football League and indoor golf event called “Swinging for Impact” in Mt. Laurel, NJ, with former teammate Zach Eflin in August
These funds benefited Help One Now and Kisses for Kyle, a charity that supports families whose children are battling cancer.
“He’s very respected and one of the most, if not the most, active people in the charity community,” said Bobby Dickerson, Phillies infield coach and former Orioles third base coach. “He’s a really thoughtful guy.”
The $10 million contract, which Gibson signed on Dec. 5, is the Orioles’ largest payout during Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias’ tenure at the organization.
The investment was made after the club did their homework for him, seeking information beyond readily available statistics. All persons contacted expressed themselves in glowing words.
“He has an excellent reputation in the league, both as a vet in the clubhouse and off the field and with the media,” said Elias. “Definitely is something that is well known and gives you a lot of solace when you sign someone as one of the most experienced players on a young team.”
Gibson and his wife Elizabeth have a long history of giving and caring. This is how they are wired.
That’s all they know.
The couple has undertaken missionary trips to Haiti and the Dominican Republic with the nonprofit organization Big League Impact, founded in 2013 by former Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright. Gibson became vice president in 2017. The charity helps people in the most basic and impactful terms to meet basic human needs such as food, clean water, medical care, shelter and education.
The Gibsons have fought human trafficking and helped build a secondary school in Haiti’s Ferrier Village, which serves as a sanctuary for orphaned children rescued from traffickers or at risk. School supplies and warm meals are provided.
Of course the money has to come from somewhere.
Hearts are always in the right place, wherever they call home.
Gibson was also the Twins’ nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2019 when he raised more than $20,000 for the team’s Community Fund, provided more than 1,200 tickets for Christian and city youth groups, and events for the Boys and Girls Club hosted able to raise more than $160,000 for the organization.
“In every city that we play in, we try to find local initiatives to get involved with,” he said. “We believe we’ve been to every city for a reason, whatever it is.”
The instinct and passion to help those less fortunate or to reciprocate a charitable act was instilled in Gibson at a young age by his father, Harold. Seeds planted in Indiana where he grew up in a Southern Baptist Church.
Lessons that carried through into adulthood and shaped the man he had become.
“It’s been something that’s been important in my family since I was a kid,” Gibson said. “My dad started a touring baseball team that I played on for most of my youth, and whenever we wanted or needed a big donation from someone and they agreed, we would eventually go and serve them in some way. I remember I was raking leaves in someone’s five-acre backyard because he was helping fund the team, and my dad was like, ‘Look, he’s not just handing it to us. We’re going to make some money.” And then, in high school and college, it was always important to host camps and find ways to give back to the community.
“My wife and I got to the point where we were drafted and had the finances to do other things. Our faith is just a big part of understanding that much has been given to us and we have a responsibility to steward it biblically and in a good way. A big part of that is that we feel like we have a chance to give some hope and give people a chance, maybe in some ways a second chance at life. And maybe just a chance to lift yourself out of poverty and just a lot of the different things that we’ve done.”
It’s a lot more than just signing a few checks or naming something. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. Every action helps. But Gibson rolls up his sleeves and immerses himself in a project.
“We feel we’ve been empowered to have financial opportunities to help and we also want to be invested in time because we don’t like throwing money around things,” he said. “We know we only have so many years to use this platform that we’ve been given and we think it’s important that we try to maximize that as much as possible.”
Having so many balls in the air and throwing one at the same time to make a living counting 10 seasons and in the majors sounds exhausting and sometimes impossible with so many commitments. There are only so many directions a person can be pulled without fraying.
Gibson relies heavily on the growing Big League Impact staff to coordinate much of the activity, be it contacting donors or the charity, setting up silent auctions and any number of tasks.
Also, Gibson detests wasted minutes as much as he does a grooved fastball or a hanging turn.
“It’s just not like there’s a misunderstanding because we’re all very busy, but every time we’re out we have a lot of time,” Gibson said. “Depending on when you wake up, three to four hours before you go to the field. So this is the first year that we’re launching something called Mission 318, where we’re going to have a place in every big league city that you can pitch to if you want to pitch. Whether it’s a food kitchen or a food backpacking program, every city in the league will have a place to spend two hours in the morning if we want to. And it’s little things like that that I feel like can really magnify and then kind of tell you, ‘Okay, I really have more time here than I think.’
“Sometimes you have to use it wisely, don’t you? For example, I try to help my wife and sometimes I don’t use my time wisely by sitting there doing nothing, but it’s not that I don’t have time. It’s because I didn’t use it properly. So part of it is trying to figure out how to prioritize that time and how to make the best use of that time. But I also think it has to be a priority. It has to be something that you’re going to say, ‘Okay, we want to do this and we’re going to do it.’
“Like everything in life, like this story right here, making it a priority will get it done. You have other things to write about – family, other things to do – and the same goes for charity stuff. If it’s important that you really want to get it done, find a way to do it. And Elizabeth does a great job organizing a lot of the things we do. It takes a team. Whether it’s the Big League Impact staff or our family, it takes a team to do this.”
Gibson held the Tigers in a four-inning run yesterday and has a 2.00 ERA in three starts. He hasn’t managed a batter in nine innings, and the initial return on the Orioles’ investment in him could come on opening day in Boston.
Gibson’s previous contract from Rangers in December 2019 paid him $28 million over three seasons and ended his association with the Twins, who drafted him in the first round in 2009.
The ink on the Orioles deal was barely dry, and Gibson was already considering how he could make a positive impact on Baltimore and the surrounding areas.
“We will find some local initiatives. Maybe more than a couple to deal with. And try to use the time in each city for a greater purpose,” he said.
“Also, one of the things that Big League Impact is so good at is that we’re giving the fans a chance to get involved too, so we’re going to have a campaign where every team win here will donate to charity. When fans go to the site, they can donate a dollar per win or 50 cents per win and jump on board. I don’t think we’ve decided on a charity yet, but it could help people who are starving or help single mothers affected by domestic violence. Whatever it is. It also provides such opportunities that allow other people on the outside to feel a part of something bigger.
“We’re definitely going to be involved in several things in Baltimore.”