03/11/2008 5:23 PM ET
Theriot has energy to spare for kids
Hardt of Champions is transforming Baton Rouge
The same kinetic energy Ryan Theriot displays on the field is also evident away from the ballpark, in his native Baton Rouge, La.
Theriot, who snuck up on everyone to claim the job as the Cubs' shortstop in 2007, has teamed with two partners to start the "Hardt of Champions" athletic center near the campus of Louisiana State University, his alma mater.
In addition to offering private baseball and softball instruction, the center serves underprivileged youths and those who simply need a helping hand.
"I always knew I had something to offer to the kids and the community through sports," Theriot said. "To be honest, just being a coach of a high school or Little League team wouldn't be enough for me. You'd only be able to affect a small number of kids -- 25, 30 kids a year, tops. I was always looking for a way to maximize the amount of kids I could help and do other things for the community."
Theriot -- nicknamed "The Riot" -- and friends had a simple goal in creating the Hardt of Champions: "We could raise money for kids in trouble or families that needed it."
The partnership already had a makeshift facility, but they wanted to build their own building and surrounding grounds.
"It's expensive," Theriot said. "Fields are expensive. We were lucky to buy 48 acres of land near LSU for a good price. We wanted a 30,000-square-foot building and fields. We didn't know how expensive until we built it. In the long run it would be worth it."
Theriot landed an important benefactor for the new complex, finished last year.
"We were extremely lucky with a guy who was extremely generous," he said. "He was not strenuous on the time to make payments, [and it's easier] without a landlord breathing down your neck. Before, in our old place, we had a clientele of 300 a month. This gave us opportunity to quadruple it overnight."
The Hardt of Champions facility is set up for both baseball and softball.
"We actually do more business with softball than baseball," Theriot said.
The complex has 10 batting cages, an indoor infield and a pitching mound. A study hall has four computers and printers. Tutors come in weekly. The second-story mezzanine is for pros only, so athletes can work out away from the general area. Outside is a "Miracle Field" for disabled athletes to play for wheelchair softball.
But Theriot takes particular pride in helping those who cannot afford the private lessons.
"We do a lot of things for inner-city kids," he said. "We have a free clinic once a year with 12 Major-League players. It's very impressive. We do auctions.
"We sent down a ton of stuff for an auction for a boy who drowned and was brought back to life. His family couldn't afford medical bills. Something like that kind of falls in your lap. One of our partners read in the paper about someone in need, calls me up, bam -- it's done. We don't focus on one special cause. We try to take it case by case."
Theriot still has a dream facility in mind.
"Long-range would be another auxiliary building with 60,000-square feet," he said. "We'd do indoor soccer, football, volleyball and basketball."
Keeping busy like that is simply in synch with "The Riot," a man who just can't stand still.
-- Red Line Editorial