Humble Humber dedicated to charitable ways
Perfect-game author held clinics for children in Philippines
OAKLAND -- Philip Humber is a Major League pitcher, the fifth starter in the White Sox rotation, to be exact, but also the architect of the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, thrown Saturday in Seattle.
He is a husband and soon will be a father for the first time.
But after a special December trip to the Philippines, the 29-year-old Humber feels as if he's become a better person overall.
"It was an experience that I'll never forget," Humber said during a recent interview about his excursion. "It's something that helped me have a new perspective on what life really is all about.
"You want to do well, and obviously this is our job, but there are things out there that are a lot more important than what we are doing. We can also use the platform we are given to help other people in tremendous ways. I'm thankful for that, and it's really a great opportunity."
Humber traveled with Brett Carroll, an outfielder in the Nationals system, to Manila and Mindanao during a mission through Unlimited Potential Incorporated. Mickey Weston, the White Sox chaplain and Midwest director/international of the group that is "serving Christ through baseball," according to its website, set up Humber's trip.
There also are trips of this nature for couples, but with Humber's wife Kristan well into her pregnancy, this one was taken solo. Humber admitted the day-long travel to and from the Philippines was the toughest part of an otherwise highly rewarding experience.
Each day, the players ran two or three baseball clinics for kids in oftentimes impoverished areas. Humber focused on pitching and Carroll took the hitting instruction.
There was some surprise for Humber that basketball was more of a favored sport than baseball, with the clinics, held over 10 days, mostly covering the game's basic skills. Of greater impact on the White Sox hurler was the happiness shown by each individual even though there wasn't always much to celebrate.
"In this country, I think we take so much for granted," Humber said. "We kind of have the American dream of how my life is supposed to look: 'I'm supposed to have this and that and if I don't, I'm not happy with it.' You go over there and they have nothing. You see every once in a while a McDonald's or Starbucks, but that's just the minority going over there.
"Most are living with no running water, no plumbing, no electricity. It's super hot over there, but there is no air conditioning and they are bathing in the streets. Little babies are running around naked but at the same time they are happy and thankful for what they do have.
"... We think we need stuff to be happy, but what you really need is relationships. It was neat. It had a huge impact on me."
Through baseball, Humber was able to build short-term but special relationships with the kids that he was instructing.
"When you can build a relationship with someone, they can tell you their story and you can relate to them your story," Humber said. "It's really neat to see the bonds that can be created just in a short time.
"Like there's this little girl, we were over there at a camp we went to and we were helping serve food and things like that. For some reason, she kind of latched on to me and she started calling me "kuya." I had to ask what is she calling me, and they [said] it means big brother (in tagalog).
"I had tears in my eyes. It's so cool to be able to build a connection with these kids who really have nothing. All they want is someone to come love on them and spend some time with them. That's what we were able to do."
Another component of the trip was for the players to "share the gospel" and "share our testimony" for those who wanted to listen about what kind of difference Jesus had made in their lives, according to Humber. Having strong faith has been a significant staple in the pitcher's life, something he talked about after throwing the perfect game.
Religion can be a slippery slope when openly discussed by public figures. Tim Tebow, who tweeted congratulations to Humber after his perfect game and an individual who Humber holds in high esteem for the way he carries himself on and off the field, became a polarizing figure during his successful Broncos' run partially because of this reason.
No excuse was made or needed by Humber in regard to his faith. He simply offered a precise explanation as to what it means personally.
"I'm not trying to push something on anybody," Humber said. "I'm thankful for the faith that I have. I want to share it with whoever wants to listen to me.
"If they don't want to listen to me, then they don't have to listen to me. It's not something that changes who I am as a baseball player. I still work hard. I still have an incredible desire to win. I'm very competitive. At the same time, I know there is something greater, something more important than just what we are doing here on the field."
Humber's feelings were reinforced during his 10-day journey, a learning experience he hopes to apply in his new role as family man.
"Like I said, something I'll never forget," Humber said. "I told my wife that since we have a little one on the way, maybe when he gets old enough, instead of just taking a vacation to the beach or Disney World or something like that, we go and do something that actually has an impact on other people. That would be neat for him to experience and for us to do as a family."