Mikie Mahtook: Giving Back, For Dad

  • Name: Mikie Mahtook
  • Age: 25
  • Organization: Tampa Bay Rays, Durham Bulls, LSU

(Photo: l-r: Michael Busada, Joel Robideaux, Mikie Mahtook and Robbie Mahtook. Photo courtesy: Mikie Mahtook.)

Author: Patrick Kinas, DNAOfSports.com creator.

In Mikie Mahtook’s world of pro baseball, he’s used to taking. Taking away a home run with a leaping catch in the outfield. Taking what the pitcher gives you at the plate. Taking a couple of pitches so a baserunner can steal.

But now, Mahtook’s world includes giving. As in, giving back.

He’s doing just that with the creation of the Mikie Mahtook Foundation, and fulfilling a long-brewing dream with his mother.

“Growing up, me and my mom always talked about doing something give back. The more I was blessed with athletic ability, being put in the spotlight, especially being at LSU, and once I got drafted and got into professional baseball, we felt it was time to really hammer down on what I wanted to do.”

“This is one of those things that I felt was closest to me and something that I felt that not enough people bring awareness to.”

The THIS to which Mahtook is referring is cardiomyopathy, the heart disease that claimed his father Mike when Mikie was barely four years old.

“The foundation is basically a way for me to honor my late father,” Mahtook said. “Our goal is to increase awareness and prevention of heart disease. We want to educate people and help them learn ways to prevent heart disease and early detection.”

Mikie recalls little about his dad, but has a few vivid memories he continues to carry around about the father he embodies, and the memory he is now preserving.

“I remember playing Army Men before dinner,” Mikie said. “I remember him coming to sneak me out of time-out when I got in trouble. Hearing stories from my uncles and his friends and family, makes me feel like I knew him a lot longer than I actually did.”

Now 25, Mikie constantly reminds his mom (Mary Ann) of mannerisms that his father had.

“My mom will scream at me for shaking my leg or doing some little things that he would do that would probably irritate her that I do, but it’s eerily similar to things that he did. In that sense, it’s pretty cool.”

Physically, the similarities continue.

“I look like him. He was a little bit bigger than me physique-wise. From what I was told, he was a great athlete. He was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track and field,” Mikie said. “From every story that I’ve heard, he was one of the most down-to-earth, nicest guys that you’re ever going to meet. He really took care or my mom. Even after he passed away, she was taken care of. It was just one of those things, where all of those stories combined that all of those his characteristics as a friend and a person to the outside world was exactly like he was to my mom. It goes a long way. My mom never remarried. I think that shows how perfect he was for her.”

Indeed, Mike was a linebacker at LSU in the early 1980s, wearing #54.

That number is one of the pre-game tributes Mikie pays daily to his late father.

“I always write his number on my cleats. One of those things where – this game is a game of failure, so you have a lot of self-doubt and get discouraged a lot. Whenever I feel moments like that, I look down and it reminds me that there’s a bigger picture than that and keeps things in perspective. I pray to him, offer thanks for the opportunities that I’ve had. I can feel his presence. It’s unfortunate that he was taken too early from me, but I consider it a gift to always have him with me.”

The Foundation

After years of planning, the Mikie Mahtook Foundation was born early in 2015, but even Mikie wasn’t sure what to expect, but like his dad’s personality, he figured it to be big.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but I just wanted to get it off the ground and have a positive first event,” Mahtook said. “I knew it was going to be big, but I didn’t know how big it would be. I have a huge family and having that support system behind me and everyone’s support, it goes a long way. Whenever we had our first event, it was invite only, we sent out 250 invitations, and about 200 showed up.”

Even with the cautious opening, the first event was a fantastic success.

“We ended up raising about $50,000 and it was basically on whatever they wanted to give, donate and a small auction. The feedback and the results was amazing and hopefully that’s the jump-start of something really big.”

The foundation (www.mahtookfoundation.org) supports several different heart foundations, with their first $5,000 grand donated to the Cardiovascular Center of Excellence at his alma mater, LSU.

“The more money we raise, the more we can give back.”

With the foundation located in Mahtook’s home state of Louisiana, he has aspirations for growth throughout the Southeast and possibly nationally. His network to LSU and to the Tampa Bay Rays will be the pillars for the foundation’s emergence.

“With me being with Tampa and the Rays organization, hopefully it will expand throughout the country. Our next event will be at the casino in Baton Rouge and it’s a legends from LSU event. We’re going to get a bunch of the older baseball players and other athletes from LSU to participate in it. It’s going to be a dinner, but an open and welcoming social event. I don’t want people to sit down for dinner to listen to speech after speech after speech. For me, I want people to be able to talk with one another and get the gist of what my dad’s personality was – a lovable and social person.”

A Different Kind Of Leader

As a pro baseball player, time commitments to anything other than training, early work, batting practice and nearly 200 games when spring training and post-season is included, you could hardly blame Mahtook for not having much down time to run a foundation as an executive.

Fortunately, Mahtook’s web of connections found a solution for this pressing challenge.

“I’ve been lucky to be introduced to a company called Coaching Charities. They’re out of Las Vegas and one of my cousins out of Shreveport knew the CEO of it and introduced them to us and it was a perfect fit. They handle the day-to-day operations of it, which allows me to focus on my job, which is playing baseball. Every idea comes through me. I talk to them once or twice a week. But they’re on top of everything. It’s been the perfect marriage with this situation.”

The leadership toolbox is similar from sports to business with a few nuanced exceptions.

“It’s a lot of the same things, but little bit different. You’re not trying to pick someone up after they strike out or made an error. You’re trying to make sure that everyone is in line with common goals for the cause that we’re trying to support. It’s a lot of the same things as being an athlete, and I’m very fortunate to have a good support staff to help me with it.”

The future for the foundation is just beginning.

“I don’t want to set a cap on (how much the foundation will raise). I’d love to see it get as big as it could possibly get. I’m new to this whole thing, so I’m not sure how to project. My goal, as with anything in life, is to be the best that I can possibly be. So my hope is to have it expand and grow. That’s my goal.”

“If I can affect one person, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”

It already has, and that person - with the same color hair and physique as Mikie, wearing #54 – is looking down on him holding army men in his hand, telling Mikie that time-out is over.

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