By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — Giving back to the community is nothing new to Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer.
For the fourth year in a row, Archer and the nonprofit organization Good Sports teamed to donate new athletic and fitness equipment to a school in the area. That lucky school on Tuesday was the Imagine School in North Port.
With the Rays training in Port Charlotte during the spring, Archer uses the opportunity to help local school athletic programs. The donation is valued at $10,000 and includes baseball, softball, basketball, volleyball and fitness equipment.
“I want to thank Good Sports. Obviously, all this equipment comes from them. The organization has impacted millions of kids and it’s unreal what they do,” Archer said. “They’ve always been kind with me and always on board with helping me in my hometown and the Tampa-Port Charlotte area. The Rays provide the funding to give the equipment and have always been a huge help.”
In addition to the donation, Archer also spoke to students in the school’s gym. Although he never attended college — he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians straight out of Clayton High School in North Carolina when he was 17 — Archer used the platform Tuesday to let students know the importance of working hard in school to achieve their goals one day, whatever they may be.
“I was fortunate enough that I was talented in baseball but everybody in this room is talented in something, whether it’s math, journalism or anything,” Archer said. “If you want to become a doctor, it’s possible. If you want to become a lawyer, it’s possible. You guys are capable of so much right now, especially at such an impressionable age and the way you do that is by making good decisions and education.”
The donation will help Imagine’s athletic program immensely. Imagine is a public charter school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, enrolling over 1,100 students across Charlotte and Sarasota counties. The athletic department operates with a budget lower than the public schools Imagine competes with, creating situations where the school’s teams must curb participation due to a lack of equipment.
Archer donated equipment to Port Charlotte High School last year and Charlotte High School the year before. Imagine athletic director Tyler Zebkar applied for the donation both of those years, but the third time was the charm.
“It helps alleviate some of the costs of a growing athletic program by not having to purchase new equipment,” Zebker said. “We now have a little bit of sustainability where I can now have money and put it into more facilities instead of having to buy more equipment every year. It really helps us diversify our budget and allows us to pour back into things we need in other avenues.
“It will help further fertilize that lawn of growth. We can now send kids to camps. If we want to send them to individual camps like the Nike Clinic, we can now pay for those things as a school instead of having to do fundraising and things of that nature.”