It’s common in baseball for players to celebrate with high-fives and hugs after a teammate has hit a ball out of the park. The “home runs for health” campaign added to the post-homer euphoria during last season’s conference-winning season for the USF baseball team.
Bob Mott and three of his teammates developed the program as part of a course in the USF School of Management. To help raise funds and awareness in the battle against malaria, the student-athletes worked with grass-roots organization Nothing but Nets to donate a bed net for each round-tripper the Dons hit.
“Guys would walk up to me in the dugout after a home run and say we just saved another family,” said Mott, who was awarded USF’s 2011-12 Spirit of St. Francis medal for his work to help prevent the spread of malaria.
Mott is the youngest of six children in a family that values education, service and baseball. When he was young, Mott’s parents opened their San Luis Obispo home to exchange students from Africa. One young man from Ivory Coast had malaria, and the struggles that his houseguest faced remained with Mott.
“Once you have malaria, you always have it,” Mott said.
Having visited Africa on three occasions — primarily Kenya and also Tanzania, Egypt and South Africa — the 21-year-old senior has seen firsthand the human devastation caused by the disease. An international business major, he also understands the destructive economic effects.
“Not everyone dies from malaria, but they get sick, resulting in a $12 billion loss in productivity,” Mott said. “If no one was getting malaria, think how much more productive the economy would be.”
Whether he will follow two of his brothers to play professional baseball or move to East Africa after school is an unknown at present as Mott recovers from last summer’s Tommy John elbow surgery.
From his position in the outfield, rather than his more familiar spot on the mound, Mott will be rooting on his fellow Dons hurlers this season to throw strikes and for batters to swing and miss.
Strikeouts are more prevalent than home runs, so Mott decided to refocus the Dons’ 2012 fundraising campaign from homers to strikeouts for the “Strike Out Malaria” campaign.
After addressing the USF board of trustees, Mott was excited to learn that the school purchased a net for each of the 40 trustees as Christmas gifts in their names.