The above newspaper headline recently caught my attention as both a baseball fan and a fundraiser. It’s a story about a Big Gift from the “Big Piece” (as Howard was affectionately called when he was hitting home runs and winning championships). As reported in the article, his “substantial” gift will result in a training center bearing the Ryan Howard name, casting it in a positive light long after he has left the Phillies.

Many agree that Howard is easily one of Philadelphia’s most controversial sports millionaires. The article underscores his situation, going from being the darling of the team and a fan favorite to an athlete plagued by performance problems, a low batting average and MLB investigations into his off-the-field activities. Local fans will not be sad to see him go. But once he’s gone, how will we think about what he leaves behind?

The act of making a noble, and sizeable, philanthropic gesture is hardly new. Using that gift to influence public opinion isn’t new either. The truth is, his story could be that of thousands of people—sports, business or entertainment figures who have used philanthropy to make others think better of them in the future than they did in the past. Ryan Howard isn’t the first and will not be the last. Many individuals, some of dubious character, have used philanthropy to “make things right.” Michael Milken, John Rockefeller and Henry Ford are just a few who used their giving to legitimize their wealth and reputations.

The very purpose of philanthropy is to do or support good, to serve humankind. How fitting for the City of Brotherly Love! Matt Gelb is right, Howard’s gift will benefit countless Philadelphia youth. His training center will go on to serve those far too young to have experienced the anger his batting average ignited or the ire his contract incited. And it may very well produce a future Philadelphia Phillies gem.

So thank you, Ryan Howard. You may never make the Hall of Fame but your legacy will now be secure. You will be remembered for your generosity, not your batting average.

See article here:

Ryan Howard Training Center Could Wind up Being His Legacy