Former Braves hurler makes United Way pitch

Former Braves hurler makes United Way pitch

August 16th, 2012 by Randall Higgins in News

Famed Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz was the keynote speaker Wednesday as United Way of Bradley County kicked off its 2012 fundraising campaign. Also pictured is Matt Ryerson, United Way president and CEO.

Photo by Randall Higgins/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Every little bit you can do makes a big impact, sportscaster and retired Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz said Wednesday in his keynote speech at the kickoff of the United Way of Bradley County's 2012 fundraising campaign.

"I was told a long time ago, wherever you are, give back, and do the things you can do to put a smile on people's faces," Smoltz said.

Smoltz, known for his work helping others off the baseball field, is a recipient of Major League Baseball's Roberto Clemente Award. Clemente died in a 1973 airplane crash while delivering supplies to victims of a Nicaragua earthquake.

"We used to go on the Braves caravan," Smoltz recalled at the sold-out luncheon in Lee University's Paul Dana Walker Arena. "What you do is go around to all the surrounding cities, trying to promote your team and give back to a lot of fans. ... The reason I didn't like it was visiting the hospitals. I did not like seeing cancer patients. I did not like seeing the distraught families. I didn't like seeing anything I saw in that hospital room."

Then, Smoltz said, he realized the significant impact those visits had on other people.

"It started my commission, if you will," he said. Smoltz and his family then decided to visit hospitals on their own every chance they got, he said.

This year's Bradley County United Way goal is $2,013,000. The announced goal for 2011 was $2.3 million.

Cameron Fisher, United Way board chairman, said "the goal is not that important in the grand scheme of things."

The county's United Way always has been able to fund its partner agencies, he said.

This year's campaign co-chairpersons are Debbie Melton, general manager and partner at Don Ledford Automotive Center, and Richie Hughes, manager of the new Holiday Inn Express here.