His throwing motion was so strong, so pure, so powerful he was sometimes called the “Human Howitzer” - a lanky outfielder with a cannon arm who could throw out the likes of Pete Rose at third even from deep right field.
So why, on any given day in North Texas, can you find former Expo, Met, Angel, and Ranger All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder Ellis Valentine behind a weed trimmer or lawnmower manicuring someone else’s lawn.
No this isn’t a story about a man who fell from grace. It’s a story about a man delivering it.
When his baseball career came to an end, the outfielder had a problem.
"Yeah it was cocaine,” Valentine, 62, said of the drug and alcohol addiction that threatened to ruin the life he had left.
“So when I got out of baseball I realized that lifestyle couldn't continue. After my career was over, it got to a point where, hey, I just can't do this anymore."
So the addict became a survivor. The survivor became a drug counselor. And the counselor, often with his son Jordan by his side, began looking for somebody else he could help. He’d done volunteer yard work along with other charity work at his church. So, he decided that would be part of his regular service.
On the day we found him in an Arlington neighborhood, he and his son were mowing and trimming the front yard of a 91-year-old woman and her 67-year-old son who’d recently undergone heart surgery and couldn’t take care of the yard himself.
All the work is offered completely free of charge.
"Just tell them how wonderful I am,” laughed Valentine when he talked with heart surgery patient Mike Hudon that morning.
A grateful neighbor found a few more words than that.
“It's wonderful,” Hudon said. "In one word, marvelous to be honest with you. To find a person like Mr. Valentine who says it's you, it's you, I'm gonna help you, that's a rarity. He's a rare person in today's world."
“He’s a big gentle giant,” Hudon added. "He's a wonderful person. And he gives a wonderful service."
"I've been blessed with a servant's heart, all my life,” said Valentine who says his family is financially secure and that he just wanted to find a way to serve others. “Just because I played right field and did pretty good that way, that never changed."
"I'm grateful. I'm just thankful for every day that I get. It's a gift. So, I just want to share that with someone."
“Whenever I tell my friends 'oh yeah we're going to go cut some grass' they're like 'why?' For what reason? Because it's nice and it's something good to do for other people,” his son Jordan Valentine said. "It's very satisfying in the long run because I know I'm doing something good."
And so on any given day, from Arlington to Grand Prairie, you may find the ex-big-leaguer and his son cleaning up a needy person's yard - for free. He has about 30 clients currently and gets referrals for people in need from Meals on Wheels.
"There's no shame to that game,” Valentine said. "It's a necessity, it's a need. And service work will never go away in this world, in this country."
"These folks can't do this. You know they have a need, they have a home, they have a service that's necessary that comes out and takes care of that for them. That’s a beautiful thing."
A beautiful thing that the man named Valentine who mesmerized crowds with his cannon arm might be better known now for his heart instead.
Click here for more information on Ellis Valentine and his charity work.
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