- VYTAS MAZEIKA
Stacy McGee Joins East Palo Alto Toy Drive
Traffic kept B.J. Boyd from being punctual Monday night at StreetCode Academy in East Palo Alto, but there was no way the Palo Alto High graduate was going to miss the Mr. Steve Toy Drive.
After all, he was one of the main attractions.
The minor league outfielder for the Oakland A’s, selected in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB Draft out of high school, joined three other athletes at a signing event to collect toys during the holidays for kids in need.
“My dream came true playing ball, so I just want to give back to the community where I’m coming from,” Boyd said.
The first one to arrive was Kenneth Walker III, a redshirt senior at UCLA who played wide receiver and is training for April’s NFL Draft.
“It was a no-brainer,” said Walker, who grew up in Richmond, of agreeing to participate. “I love giving back to the community, especially because I grew up in one of those communities that don’t have anything and it’s hard to get by day-by-day, check-by-check. And I think it’s a nice thing to do, even though I’m not actually in the pros yet.”
Walker is the nephew of Stephen Ashford, the football coach at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy and organizer of the toy drive.
“This is amazing,” Ashford said. “I’m just happy that they took time out of their schedules to come and do this. It’s definitely going to some kids that are in need and will appreciate these gifts.”
Unable to attend was San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Quinton Patton, who broke his leg on Sunday and underwent surgery on Tuesday.
But ex-49ers backup quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who had three stints with the team (most recently as a practice squad player in 2015), took time out of his schedule to help out.
“I was very fortunate to play five years in the NFL,” said Bethel-Thompson, who is involved with the nonprofit CASEProject, which provides hybrid sports and education camps to address underprivileged kids. “And whether that’s coming to a close or not, my journey through sports has been very inspiring and it’s made me want to give back to the community and want to give that opportunity to kids, whether it be through sports or through academics. So we started a nonprofit and anytime I can jump at an opportunity to interact with kids and just show them that dreams come true, but you gotta surround it with structure. And that’s academics and hanging around with the right people.”
Last, but not least, at the end of the table sat Stacy McGee, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound defensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders.
“This time of the year we’re so busy, and it also feels good to give to the community,” McGee said. “Whether it’s your community or somebody else’s. It always feels good to help someone.”
Just over 24 hours earlier, the Raiders clinched a spot in the NFL playoffs for the first time since 2002
“We give the city hope,” McGee said. “I mean, for Oakland, it seems we’ve had our droughts the past years. But we’re just giving them something positive to look to, something positive to talk about other than the negative going on.”
On hand to interview the players on their Instagram account were Adinah and Amelia Delegencia, 11-year-old twins from Fremont.
“Hello, my name Amelia and my name is Adinah,” said the twins, before breaking in unison. “And we’re identical twins. We’re also double the trouble and double the fun.”
Each of the interviews ended with a dab. But the toy drive was their biggest concern.
“I think that’s really cool,” Adinah said. “We get to donate a few toys and then we get to meet them.”
“And plus, the toys go to a great cause,” Amelia said. “And we just get to meet people. That’s really awesome.”
Boyd, who lives in Palo Alto, hit .288 with eight home runs and 58 RBI in his second season for the Stockton Ports, but the highlight to his summer was a call-up to Triple-A for a seven-game stint with the Nashville Sounds.
“I was in High-A twice and I kind of got discouraged on myself a little bit,” Boyd said. “Then I got a call on my off day and they’re like, ‘You’re going to Triple-A.’ So that kind of boosted my confidence a little bit. I’m still here and they care about me. So I had fun in Nashville, Tennessee. It was kind of like being at home, actually. Vanderbilt was right at the end of the strip they had there. So it reminded me of home and I felt comfortable.”
Asked what kind of toys the athletes preferred as kids, the answers turned out quite similar.
“I never really had time playing with toys when I was outside playing sports and stuff, but I always kept action figures around,” said Boyd, who remembers owning action figures of Michael Jordan, Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Bonds.
“We’re all athletes, right? So they gotta be balls,” Bethel-Thompson said. “They gotta be football, basketballs, baseballs, all that type of stuff. We’re kinetic people, right? So we love what made us good from the beginning, so it’s all sports equipment.”
For McGee, it was also footballs and basketballs, along with remote-controlled cars and model cars.
“Anything hands-on that I could play with, basically,” McGee said.
Walker loves playing Call of Duty on his Xbox. When it came time for him and the pro athletes to answer the call, they gladly accepted the duty of helping kids in need during the holidays.