Most people know Buster Posey as the famous catcher for the San Francisco Giants. At just 30 years old, he’s already won three World Series over his career, which began with him earning Rookie of the Year in 2010. He has been an All-Star five times and was named National League MVP in 2012.
But what many people don’t know about Posey is that he is also on a mission to help kids with cancer. In early 2016, Posey and his wife, Kristen, created the Posey Family Foundation, which raises funds to support partnerships with organizations that further pediatric cancer treatment and research. This summer, after he visited with young cancer patients and their families at AT&T Park, I sat down with Posey to find out more about what drives his passion for giving back.
What motivated you to focus on childhood cancer with your foundation?
It started with my wife. A couple of years ago, she met a mother whose child had neuroblastoma. Her child was about the same age as our children. We have twins who are about to be six. And it just really hit home with both of us. We felt like we could relate, just because of how close they were in age. [The mom] was very up front with us about the struggles her kids had to go through. Kristen and I decided that we wanted to try to help.
What are your short-term and long-term visions for how your foundation will impact pediatric cancer?
I think short-term and long-term are pretty similar. We want to try to help as many people—as many kids, as many families as we can. We’ve seen that it’s not just the kids who have cancer who are affected, it’s the siblings and the friends and the moms and the dads. Doing stuff like today, having them come to the ballpark and visit them in the hospital, is very rewarding—to be able to see them smile. And then also on the fundraising front, we want to continue to grow from what we did last year—we raised around $800,000—and help fund more research to either get treatments or cures. This year, we’re partnering with UCSF, a hospital here in the city.
I know that you have signed Buster Posey Giants baseball caps for sale on your website. Those have a gold ribbon for childhood cancer awareness. What are your other sources of fundraising?
As you mentioned, we have the hats. A certain amount of the proceeds go directly to fund some research, and then we have the website where people can donate. Last year we had a gala, and we’ll have another one this year. We sell tables and have guest speakers.
What has been the most meaningful experience you've had so far in your work to help kids with cancer?
It’s hard to rank them. I mean, any time you get to go into the hospital and people let you step into that intimate part of their lives, it’s very impactful for me, as well. I think the biggest thing that I’ve drawn from it is that I’m very fortunate to have a platform as a baseball player where I can put a smile on somebody’s face. As a dad, myself, I want my kids to see that the big reason why we’re here is to help others.
To what extent do you think it’s the responsibility of sports celebrities like you to give back, or do you think that's more of a personal decision?
I think it’s everybody! I don’t think it’s sports celebrities; I think that’s the unique gift that we all have. It doesn’t matter if you’re impacting people at a very high level, or maybe it’s a friend at school who’s having a tough day, and you pat ’em on the back and say, “Hey, I’m here for you.”
What would you say to kids who want to make a difference in their own communities?
Well, similar to what I just said—you don’t have to try to make a difference on a large scale. You can do anything from picking a friend up on a tough day, or volunteering for your city to make it a better place. I think the most important thing is to realize that whenever you are trying to help others, it’s not about the attention you receive from it, it’s about making a difference for the people you’re trying to impact.
Do you have a personal mentor or role model regarding charity work?
Last year I met Dick Vitale, the basketball commentator. He’s been working with pediatric cancer for about 10 years. I got to spend about a week with him last year, and we still stay in regular contact. He’s somebody I look up to, just because of the enthusiasm he has about it. Much like myself, we are very fortunate. We haven’t been directly impacted by pediatric cancer, but he has strong passion for it. The guy’s in his seventies, and he’s still as inspiring as ever.
What are your favorite downtime activities with your kids?
Well, they’re about to turn six. My little boy is starting to show a little bit of interest in baseball, so we’ll go out and play in the yard. They like to swim. I try to get them outside as much as possible. We try to keep the iPads limited. There’s no video games yet—I’m sure that’s inevitable, but we try to be outside and be active.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Photographs by (from top): Ezra Shaw/Getty Images; Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants; Hollis Belger