One for the Team

Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, with Humanity Project Founder Bob Knotts

Al Kaline, Detroit Tigers Hall of Famer, with Humanity Project Founder Bob Knotts


This is a personal blog today — about something that very much includes the Humanity Project. No, I have no major announcement, no huge news. Just a brief story to tell about meeting a man who personifies for me the notion of excellence in the service of a team. Al Kaline is called Mr. Tiger, the longtime face of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.

I have admired him since I was at least seven-years-old, growing up in suburban Detroit … and ever since that time I wanted to visit the Tigers’ spring training camp in Lakeland, Florida. Kaline was drafted into the major leagues directly out of high school, straight to the Tigers organization where he played his entire career. He was elected on the first ballot into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. Kaline went on to become a broadcaster with the Tigers, then moved into administrative and advising positions, which he still holds. He was the epitome of a great team player, much like Derek Jeter of more recent fame. Kaline gave his all for many years and helped the Tigers win a World Series title but without undue personal ego, without putting his own private interests ahead of the Tigers. He once turned down $100,000 annual salary because, he told the Tigers, no ball player should make as much as the President of the United States. Yes, he wanted less money … How times have changed.

On Friday morning, I went to the Tigers spring training camp in Lakeland and, through sheer serendipity, I met Al Kaline. We spoke for perhaps four or five minutes — and I told him of my admiration. Despite a cold wind, he graciously posed with me for a selfie, which I plan to frame and add to my office wall.

So, you may ask at this point, “Great … but what does this story have to do with the Humanity Project?” I’ll tell you the connection I see. We are a nonprofit built on the idea that a life lived for “us” is fuller, healthier and more meaningful than a life lived solely for “me.” Al Kaline exemplifies that “us” attitude. He played baseball as a great athlete who felt committed to helping the team win rather than working simply to break records or make as much money as possible. And it paid off, for him personally as well as for the Tigers. My point? The best way to serve our own true self-interest is to use our best talents in the service of others, to work for something larger than ourselves. All our Humanity Project programs are focused in one way or another on that concept — “If you help someone, you know you help yourself,” as our Humanity Project anti-bullying song says. For me, my memorable moment with Al Kaline was a wonderful reminder that the song lyric has it right.