The holiday season can be a time more people volunteer around their communities. For Jared Walsh, giving back has always been something he does year round — the importance of lending a helping hand to those in need was planted in him thanks to a story his parents told him and his siblings when they were younger.
The Walsh family is from a small town just outside of Pittsburgh. Many years before the Angels first baseman was born, Walsh’s grandmother saw a houseless person on her porch and instead of telling them to leave, she fed them. Confused, Walsh’s father, Harry, at the time a young boy returning home from school, asked why his mother did this.
She replied, “If Jesus comes back, he’s probably going to be dressed like that rather than driving a nice car and the fancy clothes,” Walsh recalled being told.
“Try to be conscious of how you treat people, regardless of who they are,” he continued.
That lesson has been vital for Walsh, who was a Roberto Clemente Award nominee this past season for all of his volunteering and charitable efforts. Since being called up to the Angels in 2019, Walsh has made multiple visits to children at MemorialCare Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach and Children’s Hospital of Orange County. In 2020, he even joined team Zoom calls to talk to and play games with children in hospitals.
“It’s one of those things that he’s just always been,” Lisa, his mother, said of his charitable spirit. “He’s always been a lot like that.”
That spirit dates to his childhood, when he saw for himself that not everyone was as well off as he and his family.
“We had season tickets to the Steelers,” Walsh said, “and so when we would walk to these games, you know, I’m living a pretty privileged life and we’d see people that are not so much.”
Jared was born in Milwaukee, where the family lived after leaving Pittsburgh, then moved to Georgia when Jared was around 7 years old. The family would still go back to Pittsburgh every football season to watch their favorite team.
Lisa said that they would give Jared some money to buy a snack at the games. The family would stay in a hotel across the river from the Steelers’ stadium and walk over the bridge to get there. On the way, Jared would give all of his money to the different houseless people he saw.
“I remember just feeling kind of that tug of war of, like being happy with where I was at, but also understanding there’s a lot of despair,” he added.
The more organized projects began with various community service activities that his father — who died when Jared was 19 years old — and mother would sign the family up for.
Walsh remembered some of those first community service efforts involved preparing sandwiches at soup kitchens in the downtown Atlanta area.
“I wasn’t too dynamic of a chef or anything like that,” he said jokingly. “Just trying to lend a helping hand.”
Lisa said the family also used to take part in a program in which they would be matched with another family who was in need of assistance and had similarly aged children. Jared and the rest of his siblings would then pick out gifts they thought the children of the family they were matched with would like.
While giving back, Jared also takes the time to connect with those he’s helping out.
“To really engage with them I think is really important because it’s more than just physically doing something, you’re actively engaging with those people,” Lisa said.
Jared now lives with his fiancée, Lauren, in Phoenix during the offseason. Though his workout and rehab schedule — Walsh had surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in September — takes up much of his time, he usually is off on Wednesdays.
He said he sets a simple Google search for places to volunteer nearby, and that’s what he’ll do on his day off. His fiancée volunteers with him when she’s off from work. Recently he found a volunteer opportunity with St. Mary’s Food Bank, packing food. He has also volunteered with the local Ronald McDonald House chapter helping fulfill wish lists for families. Those lists typically include items like toys, diapers, pantry food and other household and personal care items for the families that need them.
Jared was introduced to Ronald McDonald House charities through the Angels, who he said helped show him just how many more volunteer opportunities are out there.
“Most of the time it was just during the season and I kind of realized I could be doing a little more during the offseason,” he said.
Walsh still volunteers with his mother during the offseason around Atlanta. They’ve previously volunteered for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity and last offseason, worked with Hands on Atlanta, packing pantry items into boxes to give to those that need them.
Lisa said that this week, while Jared and Lauren are visiting, they are volunteering with Sheltering Arms — an Atlanta-based non-profit early education center — buying gifts, diapers and wipes for over 50 children.
“It’s a perspective shift,” Jared said. “If I went 0 for 4, three strikeouts the night before, I’m feeling sorry for myself and then I meet somebody who isn’t able to get out of a hospital bed on their own. So it’s just kind of understanding the mental thought patterns that I’ve created and how to break myself out of those a little bit.”