Baseball, Family, And Perseverance: A Conversation With Anthony Rizzo

(Getty/Christian Petersen, Getty/Icon Sportswire, BODYARMOR)

World Series. Game 7. Bottom of the 9th. Bases loaded. Lots of kids have fantasized about such a scenario.

Now let’s make some tweaks… It’s still Game 7 of the World Series. But it’s not bottom of the 9th; it’s top of the 10th. You just came off an All Star season in which you were awarded the Gold Glove AND Silver Slugger. On top of all that, your team hasn’t won the World Series in 108 years and your entire city is watching. Oh, and you’re only 27 years old. Imagine that pressure. How would you perform? That was Anthony Rizzo in 2016.

How does Anthony deal with big game pressure? I caught up with the Chicago Cubs first baseman to chat baseball, overcoming adversity, and important father figures in his life.

The love of the game

Whether you’re an athlete or not, baseball’s influence on American culture is undeniable. It means something to all of us. If we close our eyes and think baseball, most of us can imagine the sound of a ball cracking off a wooden bat, or the smell of beer and peanuts.

Before Anthony Rizzo was a professional baseball player, he was a fan. “Going to ballgames and watching the parades coming to town and rooting for your team, or heckling Chipper Jones… It’s fun. Win or lose. You know, I can’t ever tell you what team won or lost when I went to a game; I just know I enjoyed going.”

Living legend!

A post shared by Anthony Rizzo (@arizz_44) on

A family commitment

Sports have an incredible ability to bond families together, and Anthony’s parents have supported him since the beginning.

“My parents both love it. They love being able to watch me play and they’re happy for me, whether I get four hits or don’t get any hits. They’re just happy to see their son out there.”

Any sports parent knows, raising a young athlete takes sacrifice. “It’s a huge commitment and, you know, I was lucky enough that my parents provided me that and were able to take me to the tournaments. They were able to take me to showcases and dish out the money that they didn’t necessarily have…”

#tbt one of the better moments in life celebrating with my parents

A post shared by Anthony Rizzo (@arizz_44) on

Overcoming adversity

8 years before the 2016 World Series, at age 19, Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the same time, his grandma was battling breast cancer. Rizzo underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and beat it. Just 3 years later, on June 9, 2011, Rizzo hit a triple in his debut Major League Baseball game, helping the Padres to victory.

Just over a month later, Rizzo was sent back to the minors. Like always, Rizzo persevered.  “At the moment, when I was getting sent down, I never really doubted myself. I knew I could play. But also, in the moment, you gotta keep perspective in life. When you’re beating yourself up over a baseball game, you tell yourself, Listen, you’re beating yourself up over a baseball game. You know? I’m playing a sport for a living. We’re all very lucky to be doing what we’re doing and I will never take that for granted.” He established the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to assisting families dealing with pediatric cancer. He was later traded to the Cubs, where he’s played ever since.

“When I was a kid I told my teachers I wanted to be a professional baseball player. I would yell at my dad because he would tell me I could be good enough to play and I would say, ‘No, Dad, every parent tells their kid that. Don’t tell me that.’ But that sort of thing stays with you—when your dad believes in you. And that confidence in your abilities is what gets you through the tough times.”

Peak energy

Last year, Anthony played in 157 games with 572 at bats. That’s a lot. How does he stay energized and in peak shape? “I listen to music pregame. I just make sure I’m hydrated, make sure I get a good meal in and just make sure I’m loose and have a good time. That’s what life’s all about, you know?”

To stay hydrated, Anthony drinks BODYARMOR (a premium sports drink with natural flavors and sweeteners, no colors from artificial sources, and made with coconut water) as part of his daily routine. “I drink it religiously. It has no artificial flavors or sweeteners.  There’s a bunch of vitamins. It’s low sodium. It’s high in potassium. I’m very conscious of what I put in my body, especially when I’m playing, and I do drink it during the game and it just keeps me at a peak level of energy throughout the entire game, which is not easy to do.”

I can relate, I just got winded taking out the trash.

(BODYARMOR)

World Series, Game 7, extra innings…

So in Anthony Rizzo’s moment, with the Series on the line in Game 7 in 2016, what happened? Instead of facing the hot hitter, Cleveland pitcher Bryan Shaw intentionally walked Rizzo. His teammate Miguel Montero drove him in for the Cubs’ last run in an 8-7 victory, Chicago’s first World Series win since 1908. With a supportive family behind him and the drive to never let anything stop him, Rizzo was able to live every kid’s baseball dream.

Rizzo became a partner and investor in BODYARMOR, a premium sports drink made with potassium-packed electrolytes, coconut water, and natural sweeteners and flavors, several years ago when he discovered it during spring training. Rizzo joined a team of other superstar athletes who also partnered with BODYARMOR, including Mike Trout, James Harden, Andrew Luck, and Dustin Johnson. To learn more about BODYARMOR Sports Drink, visit www.drinkbodyarmor.com.

This post was sponsored by:
BODYARMOR

Artist Wife Illustrates The Drastic Ways Her Husband’s Life Changed After Kids

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Chen Weng, an illustrator who goes by the name The Messycow, has created a series of comics showing just how much things change when one becomes a father.

Which do you relate to most?

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Check out more from this series on The Messycow’s Facebook page and website.

Dad Dinosaur: Prehistoric Reunion

Dad Dinosaur’s high school reunion is fast approaching, but will he be able to win the big dance contest – or are his moves stuck in the past?

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Father Figures: Risky Business

“As the garage door closed behind me, I heard a muffled whimper.

“What is that?” I wondered. Another whimper and I noticed eight fingers on the lid of one of the garbage cans in the corner. I spy a set of eyes, then a nose and finally my oldest son’s face.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it.”

“What happened? Where is your brother?” No answers, just sobbing.

He moped toward the door and I followed him into the kitchen. I half-expected to see CSI investigators hovering over a chalk outline.

We walked around the corner by the refrigerator, and only then did I see his brother and allow myself to take my first breath. Then I saw a hole in the drywall the size of a young boy’s torso.

They had been running & sliding, in their stocking feet, across the marbled kitchen floor. Obviously a bit too exuberantly! I was relieved that they were both okay, but I still mustered enough anger to quash any future escapades.

Each blamed the other, of course. I used to say I couldn’t always tell when my kids were lying, but I could always tell when they were telling the truth.

If that makes any sense to you, I’m guessing you’ve raised at least two boys.”

  • Ron Fuller

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Son Surprises Ailing Dad With Tickets To College World Series

Father’s Day is a special time to celebrate your old man, and show him how much you appreciate the role he’s played in your life all these years. Especially since, as we get older, our dads do too, and they may not have many Father’s Days left.

Matt Lea recognized that this Father’s Day, and so went out of his way to make it a memorable one, for both him and his father, both former college baseball players who bonded over the game as Matt was growing up.

Matt’s father Billy suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, and the symptoms have been accruing rapidly. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t time for more memories, and Matt used the latest Father’s Day as an opportunity to do just that. The 36-year-old drove 12 hours, from Florida to Mississippi, and surprised his parents at their doorstep on Sunday.

He was bearing gifts as well, bringing his dad the jersey of his favorite baseball team, Mississippi State. But that wasn’t all. Matt brought tickets too, to see the College World Series in Omaha in person.

In video of the exchange that Matt posted on Twitter, his dad was clearly taken by surprise.

“I figured it’s probably not good enough just for us to watch the game here,” Matt says in the video as he produces the tickets. “How about we go to Omaha? Do you want to go up to Omaha and watch the College World Series together?”

“Golly,” an emotional Billy responds. “You’re gonna break my heart, here.”

Matt’s gift for his dad received a rapturous response from Twitter, where it’s been liked 46,000 times and retweeted 11,000 times.

Matt seemed as surprised by the response as his dad was by the gift, as everyone who celebrated Father’s Day yesterday knows, there’s nothing better than sharing meaningful memories with your dad, which is exactly what Matt did. An article on Omaha.com details Billy’s baseball past, the initial diagnosis of his Alzheimer’s, the VIP experience Matt treated him too over the weekend.

Matt’s Twitter account showcased the rest.

Happy Father’s Day!

Amazing Street Artist Uses Everyday Objects As His Canvas

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Artist Tom Bob doesn’t see the world like other people. Where you and I might see sewer grates or metal pipes, he sees ghosts and saxophone players.

Check out some of the amazing ways he’s transforming parts of New York City into works of art.

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Check out more of Tom Bob and his unique artwork here.

Father Figures: Heroes

“On February 2, 2011, my daughter was born. The whole thing started pretty normally about 2:30 am or so, my wife woke me up and said, ‘Honey, it is time to go,’ so we went to the hospital in a snowstorm.

That was the easy part.

When they put the belly monitor on her they noticed that the babies heart rate would drop to low whenever my wife would have a contraction. She needed emergency C-section, but the doctor could not make it due to the storm, and when he finally arrived it was rush rush rush!
Well when my daughter Emily did arrive, she had internal bleeding throughout her body, which included two grade 4 brain bleeds. We could not touch her because she would bruise and start bleeding.
They had to life-flight her to the university, where she spent 5 1/2 weeks in the NICU, which left her (you may want to sit down) deaf/blind, with hydrocephalus, a shunt, cerebral palsy, and seizures (at age 6, she needed a baclofen pump because her CP got too bad to handle without it). She is doing great today. She is happy, loves life, and everyone who meets her says that she makes their day and she is beautiful.
To pay back our little community, I became a first responder, mostly a firefighter, but I did help with EMS. Never got my certification, but that is where I found out that in the U.S. we do not have any training for first responders to deal with children with special needs.
I have made it my personal mission to teach first responders about kids with special needs.
I have taken to Emily to every EMS/Fire station in the five counties around me. I have taken her to the police and sheriff’s departments to train them, and now I have a waiting list to get trained.
I don’t know if I am the hero here, but I needed to tell the story.”

– Mike Kuyper

Want to share a story about fatherhood? Email fatherfigures@thedad.com

Low Cost Cosplay Guy Makes The World A Better Place

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Anucha “Cha” Saengchart, the genius behind “Low Cost Cosplay,” has amassed millions of followers with his incredible reimaginings of famous fictional characters.

Whether you’re planning on portraying your favorite anime character or a Marvel superhero, this guy can show you how to do it effectively and on a string budget.

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Can’t get enough? Check out more creative cosplay on his Facebook page.