by Mellissa Thomas
Professional baseball player and UCF Knight Chris Duffy works tirelessly to empower the generation behind him. For years he’s been coordinating “dream rallies,” a public speaking series reaching middle and high school students across Florida, with Orlando nonprofit Above .500 Inc., and loves giving back. In 2014, he used an opportunity he “wasn’t paying attention to before” and came up with a way to give back on a massive scale.
Above .500 Inc. hosted Duffy’s inaugural “Hit & Run” charity celebrity softball game last January, which ignited the University of Central Florida’s Jay Bergman Field. It garnered over 700 attendees and thousands of dollars in donations benefiting Above .500 Inc. and the Jackie Robinson Program. Special guests included ten-year NBA player Marquis Daniels; former Orlando Magic players Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw; and World Series MVP and two-time All-Star David Eckstein.
The game’s great success inspired Duffy to form his nonprofit event coordination company, We Throw It! LLC, and is using it to continue his mission, help other celebrities, as well as produce his 2015 celebrity softball game.
This Year’s Game
Duffy’s 2nd Annual Celebrity Softball Game, happening at UCF’s Jay Bergman Field again on Saturday, January 17th from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. Event partners include UCF, Power 95.3, Graffiti Junktion American Burger Bar, and Above .500 Inc. Others include Elite Catering & Events, LLC. and Fierce Entertainment Management.
Duffy held his model casting call at Shakai Sushi Bar and Lounge in Downtown Orlando January 7, 2015 at 9 p.m. The extensive panel boasted nine judges, including Above .500 Inc. CEO Brawley Sanchez, celebrity chef and Elite Catering & Events CEO Alfred Mann, Fierce Entertainment Management CEO Robert Henlon, The Network in Orlando President Marissa Lipton, and Duffy himself. The panelists studied the models’ strides and briefly interviewed them. The after party kicked off at 11 p.m. and the models and attendees got to mingle with pro athletes, the panelists, and even a few surprise celebrities, like Bigg Persona.
Duffy’s celebrity lineup for the game is already impressive, featuring 2014 MLB All-Star Dee Gordon; NFL wide receivers Mike Sims-Walker, Doug Gabriel, and Jamar Newsome; Power 95.3’s Ricky Padilla; three-time Cupcake Wars winner, author, and speaker Hollis Wilder; promoter and event host H-Dot; and returning guests NBA players Marquis Daniels and Nick Anderson. The confirmed guest list includes more and is still growing.
The gates open at 5 p.m. and will kick off with an hour-long segment Duffy dubs “Meet the Foundations,” in which attendees will visit the game’s nonprofit vendors and learn more about their companies and community initiatives.
His Passion’s Origins
The New York City native’s parents, James and Sarah Duffy, raised him to always push forward to excellence. “My dad was an NYPD officer from Bed-Stuy and my mom was a foster child from Queens,” he explained. “My parents were dedicated to putting us in a better position than themselves.”
And with good reason. His parents told the Orlando Sentinel in 2010 that their son used to swing his baby bottle like a bat during infancy. They made sure to buy him a toy bat and ball after that, and recalled that his first hit was so hard, his father had to duck to avoid being hit. “At that moment, I think we realized baseball was going to be a special part of his life for a long time,” Mrs. Duffy said.
Duffy showed such promise, the Chicago White Sox drafted him out of high school. However, his parents encouraged him to attend college first to grow more mature, so he enrolled in UCF, majoring in Communications and completing his Bachelors in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication.
The First Team All-American baseball player has played across America, in Canada, and even Cuba, including for the Phillies.
He teaches youth to look beyond their past to achieve their goals. “The outcome of your life isn’t where you’re from,” he said fervently. “You can learn from your failures, don’t let them dictate your future. Keep moving.”
So, Why The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida?
Duffy holds the BGCCF close to his heart. When he wasn’t playing baseball for UCF, he attended BGCCF’s summer program. Additionally, his coach, Coach Mitchell, was a BGCCF coach, and it was there that Duffy first met him. He plans to make BGCCF his annual softball game charity.
When Duffy’s not playing baseball, he’s minding his business. Literally.
Through his organization We Throw It! LLC, he plans to expand into other charity events, including a celebrity bowling tournament, and wants to produce his next celebrity softball game in another location. “Then I want to build We Throw It’s network of event planning subcontractors.”
While Duffy never envisioned himself doing all of this while in school, he has embraced all his experiences, including recently being dropped by the Phillies. “You gotta take some hits, but sometimes you have to go through, then when you look back, it makes sense.” Concerning entrepreneurship, he noted, “Not everybody can fail until they get it. Most fail and move on to something else.”
Duffy loves Orlando, celebrities, and kids, and his organization neatly marries all three of his passions together. He won’t stop until the students he touches understand that they can indeed be successful. “The only difference between the successful and the average is how they viewed it [failure]. The successful moved forward instead of giving up.”
For more information about We Throw It! LLC or to buy tickets for the softball game, visit www.wethrowit.com.
About the Author:
Orlando Fashion Magazine Chief Editor and Publisher Mellissa Thomas is a Jamaica-born writer. She’s a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with Entertainment Business Masters and Film Bachelors degrees from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL.
She’s currently available for hire, writing content for websites, blogs, and marketing material, and as a book coach. She also writes poetry, screenplays, and ghostwrites books.
She has published four books, all available on Amazon.com. Her most recent release, Faded Diamonds, is now available in paperback on all major online book retailers and digitally available on the Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.
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