Helping Boys & Girls Club second nature to CC

Helping Boys & Girls Club second nature to CC

NEW YORK -- CC Sabathia still remembers how great it felt to see All-Star pitcher Dave Stewart make an appearance at his local Boys & Girls Club while growing up in the rough neighborhoods of Vallejo, Calif.

On Thursday night, Sabathia continued his hope of creating a similar memory for others.

Sabathia, representing his PitCCh In Foundation, made an appearance at the Payless ShoeSource on Fifth Avenue and 39th Street, where he and his wife, Amber, distributed free shoes to about 60 Bronx inner-city kids from the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club.

"I always go back to the experience I had with Dave Stewart, when I was young," Sabathia said. "He came and visited my Boys & Girls Club, just talked for like 15 minutes, and it kind of lasted with me. So, if I could do that with one of these kids, it would feel great."

The Payless Gives Shoes 4 Kids program launched in 2008 and now extends its reach all over the continental United States and into Canada, Puerto Rico and 10 Latin American countries. Since its start, the program has given away $3.4 million in free shoes.

On Thursday, one of the beneficiaries was 11-year-old Malik Wright, who nabbed a couple of sneakers from Shaquille O'Neal's shoe line because he received a good tip.

"CC said they're really good for me, and I really like them," he said. "He has good taste."

"Some kids just don't get that much for Christmas," Amber said, "and it's just good to put smiles on their faces at this time of the year."

In '09, Sabathia, with the help of Amber and his mother, Margie, launched the PitCCh In Foundation, which is "dedicated to enriching the lives of inner-city youth by working to raise their individual self-esteem through educational and athletic activities," according to the foundation's website.

PitCCh In's next appearance will be a four-day event called CC's Christmas Caravan in the left-hander's hometown, from Dec. 20-23.

"I grew up in the Boys & Girls Club, grew up in the inner city, saw everything that it can do for you," Sabathia said. "I was fortunate to be able to get out, and now I'm trying to give back."

While giving back on Thursday, the Yanks' ace asserted that he wouldn't be opting out of his contract after the 2011 season, congratulated his good friend Carl Crawford for landing on the rival Red Sox -- "They have a really, really good team now," Sabathia said -- and addressed the recruitment of his other friend, Cliff Lee.

"I'm giving him the space," Sabathia said of Lee, the ace pitcher and big-name free agent who's still weighing his options. "He'll text me and ask questions, and we'll talk. But it's a decision that he has to make for him and his family. I know coming here would be great, because we'd have a chance to win championships every year, but we'll have to wait and see."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.