A former MLB all-star and American League MVP is going to bat for Andy Bhatti, and his ongoing efforts to raise awareness about addiction and surviving childhood sexual abuse.
Jose Canseco is part of Bhatti’s charity team that is playing in the Aldergrove Days Slo-Pitch Tournament.
Bhatti’s team is called Straight Outta Hastings. “Our team is made up of 70 per cent of people in recovery, or from Hastings Street,” Bhatti said.
Proceeds from Saturday’s activities at Philip Jackman Park, next to Parkside Centennial Elementary, will go to Bhatti’s charity, Survivors Supporting Survivors (www.supportingsurvivors.ca).
“We will use this money to pay for therapy for sexual abuse survivors who can’t afford it, or are too scared to go to the police right away,” Bhatti explained.
Bhatti said Canseco will be putting on a baseball hitting display at 11:30 a.m. on June 11 and then will be playing a game as part of the Straight Outta Hastings team at noon.
Canseco will be signing autographs and having his picture taken after the game, for donations.
He will also be doing a home run derby at 6:30 p.m., Bhatti noted.
Canseco will compete against the top three hitters out of the home run derby.
The Aldergrove Days tournament as a whole runs Saturday and Sunday in Aldergrove and Bradner.
This tournament is very important to Bhatti.
When he was between the ages of seven and 10, and before he was sexually abused by a Big Brothers volunteer, Bhatti used to live across the street from the park.
“I used to go across the street and be the bat boy for lots of these teams,” Bhatti said. “The teams would pay me $2 to $4 a game.”
To a younger Bhatti, that was a lot of money.
“I use to run in the bushes and collect the balls that were hit in the bushes or out of field,” he continued. “The baseball league would pay me 25 cents for each ball I returned. Everybody knew me as the local bat and ball boy.”
After Bhatti turned 11, his life turned upside down.
He said the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Big Brothers volunteer caused him to struggle in school.
As a coping mechanism, Bhatti turned to drugs, which led to a life of crime to feed his addiction.
After spending 15 years in and out of jail and on heroin, Bhatti finally got clean. He is now almost 10 years sober, and is a drug and alcohol interventionist (www.Andybhatti.com) as well as an advocate for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
“I believe doing this event in Aldergrove, my hometown, makes the most sense,” Bhatti said.
Need is there
Bhatti said he has received more than 100 phone calls and roughly 200 emails from families looking for help for their loved ones who are in the throes of addiction, or having mental health issues.
The families are either seeking private or free treatment options, drug and alcohol testing, “or help for their family members who are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse like myself,” Bhatti said.
Since his last event involving Canseco, Bhatti continues his tireless work to raise awareness about the dangers of opiates.
As well, Bhatti said survivors of sexual abuse need proper therapy, otherwise the likelihood of them getting sober isn’t good.
“I believe everybody deserves the right to therapy,” Bhatti said.