How this World Series hero spreads awareness beyond baseball
George Springer stepped up to the plate in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night.
Fans of both teams may not have been expecting much — throughout Game 1, the Houston Astros outfielder struck out four times against the Los Angeles Dodgers' talented pitchers. But as he got up to bat last night, the score was tied 5-5, and the Astros were counting on him.
After two balls and one strike, Springer hit a two-run homer, giving the Astros the lead and ultimately winning the game for his team. The 28-year-old yelled with joy as he rounded the bases.
When Fox Sports asked him what changed in this game, Springer said he found more confidence.
"I've been complicating things at the plate, and not just trusting myself and getting out of my zone a little bit," he said. "Today I just said I'm going to go back to what got me here, and I'm happy to help the team."
The post-game interview was undoubtedly inspiring for Astros fans across the country, as Springer explained his thought process behind how he helped clinch the win, tying the Dodgers and Astros 1-1 for the World Series so far.
But the interview likely had an even greater impact for some fans in particular: kids who stutter.
Springer, a long-time stuttering advocate and activist, unapologetically stutters during the Fox Sports interview.
In many ways, it was just Springer talking about his job, as anyone typically would. But for young people who stutter, they saw a role model in the public eye speaking just like them, proving that stuttering doesn't need to hold them back either.
Since 2014, Springer has been the national spokesperson for the Stuttering Association for the Young (SAY), a nonprofit that helps young people who stutter express themselves and teaches them a stutter isn't something to "fix" or "overcome."
Springer hosts SAY's annual bowling benefit to help send any kid who's interested, regardless of income or background, to Camp SAY, a summer camp for kids who stutter.
"I totally embrace my stutter — it makes me who I am," Springer said in a statement when he first took on the role with SAY.
"Some people have blue eyes, some have blonde hair, and some people stutter. I've never let it hold me back and with SAY, I want to help kids who stutter build the confidence they need to pursue their own dreams," he said.
In July, Springer agreed to be the one American League players mic'd up as he played in the MLB All-Star Game, so he could be interviewed throughout the night. As he answered questions, you could hear him take pauses between words, or repeat the first sounds of certain words — common characteristics of stuttering.
Springer said he used to shy away from interviews, but he realized he had a platform to help others.
"I can't spread a message to kids and adults if I'm not willing to put myself out there," he said to reporters after the All-Star Game. "I understand I'm going to stutter. I don't care. It is what it is. It's not going to stop me from talking or having fun."
According to SAY, about 5 percent of young children stutter and approximately 70 million people worldwide. A stutter is different for everyone, but it often includes repetitions of sounds, prolonged syllables, blocks of silence, and sometimes other gestures.
Stuttering continues to be met with stigma, as some people who don't stutter misunderstand or make fun of people who stutter, leading to shame, embarrassment, or lack of self-esteem.
Image: Courtesy of SAY
But that's exactly what Springer is trying to dispel through his activism, and it's what his two-run homer and interviews Wednesday night helped illuminate.
For people who don't stutter, Springer shows how stuttering doesn't stop someone from being a great communicator, or hold them back from success.
For people who do stutter, it's yet another example of a resilient person who stutters, how stuttering doesn't define someone, and that, in the end, every voice matters.