The fact that he led the National League in strikeouts last year and ERA the previous year are usually the things boys first notice about Jake Peavy, but the passionate right-hander doesn't want his influence to end there.

So the ace pitcher of the San Diego Padres devotes time off the field to mentoring fatherless boys through an organization called Team Focus.

"Each kid is different," Peavy said recently. "They all have their personal issues. I want them to feel that I care for them.

"A lot of them haven't had a man's influence. I'm interested in them, challenge them to make good grades and listen ... I challenge them to be all they want to be, grow up to be good human beings and accomplish their dreams and goals in life."

Peavy, turning 26 at the end of May, got involved in Team Focus when he and his wife, Katie, were looking for a cause in which to devote their time and energies. They met ESPN analyst Mike Gottfried at an event in Mobile, Ala. Gottfried, who grew up fatherless, founded Team Focus as a way to help those who were in the same predicament as he had found himself.

The father of two young boys, Peavy can relate to Team Focus in his own life.

"I know what it's like for me to be in their lives and to not be in their lives," he said of his sons. "I spent a lot of time away from them. It really hit close to home.

"(Team Focus) does a lot of camps, and brought one to San Diego last year. We work with kids 8 to 18, and run camps all year. We're in eight major cities now. We stay involved their lives. We spend quality time with kids who haven't had the privilege of having a father figure in their lives. Just give them some hope, be a manly influence.

"In the camps, we teach them everything from how to treat a woman, manners, how to eat with what fork and what spoon at the table. We play sports with them. It's a very humbling experience. It's been awesome for me."

Peavy isn't trying to make a social statement. Rather, he's just trying to fill in a gap.

"I'm not sitting here downing divorce by any means," he said. "A lot of divorced homes are OK. The children get to spend quality time with their fathers. We target kids whose fathers don't have anything to do with them or maybe has passed away. They have no influence in their lives, other than mothers.

"I think it's important for a little boy to have a man in his life who can be a role model; who can teach him things a woman can't. Not to criticize women. Women typically go above and beyond the call of duty with their children."

Peavy knows how important his own father was to him.

"I know how big an influence my dad, Danny Peavy, was in my life," he said. "I could not imagine not having that figure in my life. I feel sorry for those kids and want to be a positive male influence."

Peavy is proud of the San Diego part of Team Focus and wants to see it continue to develop around the country.

"It took us a few years to get ball rolling in San Diego," he said. "We had a camp with 50 kids in attendance. San Diego State provided the facilities. We had Jim Harbaugh out there to talk to the kids. It was just a neat time.

"We had them come to a game where I pitched. The Padres were so good to me. They did an awesome job getting them to the game, getting them tickets, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids.

"It's a very special organization I'm proud to be a part of."

-- Red Line Editorial