Live Like a Champ

Share
Share
Joc and Champ Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers - The Players' Tribune

I was soaked. I could hardly see. It was 2015, and I was a 23-year-old Dodgers rookie who was headed to the playoffs. You know the scene: The locker room was electric, corks popping, beer spraying. It was pure pandemonium.

Just before I could take in how surreal the moment actually was, I saw my brother Champ across the room. Goggles on. Pouring champagne on his head right along with the guys.

Of course, he’s not a player, but it was just natural to see Champ there. Our executive VP, Lon Rosen, went out of his way to find Champ and bring him into the locker room. Honestly, I don’t think Lon would have noticed if I was in there. Just saying.

That’s the way it’s always been with Champ. He brings this happiness out of people all the time. They see how much fun it is to have him around. And what’s more, he’s always done everything with me. He’s in the locker room before games, he’s hanging with all the players. So this time was nothing different. Nothing special. Nothing put on. Champ’s just always been there.

Every person who meets him immediately knows what it means to “Live Like a Champ.” It means you stay positive, even on the tough days. Because let’s be honest, in between the champagne celebrations and the Dodgers games, life isn’t always so easy.

To my teammates who’ve met Champ, and to the others who have heard his speeches, you know. You can just feel his sense of life.

And for those who have yet to find out, here’s a little slice of what it’s like to live like Champ. Of course, I couldn’t do it without the man himself — who always knows how to tell a good story.

Over to you, Champ.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
Hi. My name is Champ Pederson. I have Down syndrome, but that does not define me. I am a big brother to Joc, who plays centerfield for the L.A. Dodgers. It’s not just for kicks, he’s a professional baseball player. He worked very hard to get where he is and now I have a Dodger little brother.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
I am the oldest of four kids. I played baseball with my brothers growing up, but they were better than me. They both went on to have baseball careers. I used to compete in Special Olympics. I was really good. I am a competitor, I don’t like to lose. We are all competitive — me, Tyger, Joc, and our sister, Jacey. Jacey is the most athletic. She is going to UCLA for soccer.

Joc
When we were younger Champ would play baseball with us, but then he had his own Challenger Division and Special Olympics teams. He would wrestle with Tyger and I, and he was always the strongest one. We knew not to mess with Champ — he would get you in a clinch and not let go. But I’d say Champ’s best sport is basketball. We would always shoot hoops and he has a good jump shot.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Pederson family at Spring Training in Phoenix, AZ on March 27, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
Down syndrome — it is not a disease. It doesn’t hold me back, but it is my disability and I know what my disability is. I just try even more. Some people say words about it. Words that are hateful. There is a word, called the r-word, and if anyone ever says that to us, it is really hateful. For some people that don’t know about Down syndrome, it’s about 21 chromosomes — we have an extra chromosome. That extra chromosome makes us special because we touch a lot of people’s hearts. It’s also how we talk to people too.

Joc
A lot of times people say, “I am sorry your brother has Down syndrome,” and I’m like, “Really? No, it’s a blessing, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without him.” There is nothing to be sorry about. I am extremely lucky.

Champ
I travel and fly by myself. I can handle it. I don’t mind. I just like doing what’s best for me. I work for Apple now as an Apple Store Specialist in Palo Alto, Calif. I take pride in Apple. That is what I wanted to do, so I am happy now and I am good at it. But I can’t give you any scoop though, I signed a contract.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Joc
Champ supports us in everything we do, so we make sure we’re always there whenever possible when he is doing something — whether he’s giving a speech, working as a Best Buddies ambassador, or competing at the Special Olympics. We rally together because ever since we were little, Champ’s been there cheering us on.

Champ
I started giving speeches with Tyger’s baseball team, the University of Pacific Tigers. I was their motivation coach, bat boy and team manager. They called me Coach C. I like giving speeches. I write speeches for Best Buddies. I’m doing good for myself in a professional setting and finding my way.

“Quitting is unacceptable.”

Champ Pederson shares an exerpt from one of his many motivational speeches. (0:25)

progressbar

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Joc
What about the time you gave the speech to the Dodgers before Game 5 of the NLDS?

Champ
Yeah, when Adrian Gonzalez asked me to give a speech. I felt honored to talk to the Dodgers. It’s time for Dodger baseball. I said to the team that they had a shot during the chase for October, when the best teams are playing.

Joc
And somehow you dropped in Toby Keith’s name.

Champ
What? Toby Keith is my favorite country artist! I love his music. “Red Solo Cup” and “American Soldier” are my favorites.

Joc
I had no idea what you were going to say. You always add something that is not on the paper that just comes into your head. But when you do it your way it comes out special and authentic. It’s either your way or the highway, right Champ?  It was definitely really cool to be a part of.

Champ
I’m glad I did it — got it off my chest. The vibe I get from the team is that they are all about playing together. They play every day. Not like me. I work for a living, making it on my own. But, enough about me. The vibe in their clubhouse is that they’re just a bunch of guys, there are no prima donna’s on the team.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
This is Andre Ethier. He’s an outfielder for the L.A. Dodgers. He’s my guy on the DL, rehabbing and rolling around in the clubhouse on a scooter.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
Chase Utley. The guy makes plays when it counts. You need a guy like him on your team. He gets along with his teammates, nice guy and humble.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
Mr. Redhead, third baseman for the Dodgers, Justin Turner. DH sometimes. He’s the guy that can make plays. If he throws to first, you are out.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Joc
I think you make better connections with people than I do, Champ. It’s like you bring this joy out of people. There are superstar players who go out of their way just to see you. You know how many people come up to me and want to talk about you? Troy Tulowitzki: “How’s Champ doing? How’s my guy, Champ? Tell Champ I say, What’s up.”

Champ
The Legend of Troy!

Joc
I mean there’s a whole list: Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Trayce Thompson and his brother, Klay.

Champ
I met Trout, he wears number 27 for the Angels. He gave me his bat. I have respect for him. We should hit golf balls. Albert has his foundation he started. I got involved with him. I have a lot of respect for him and his wife, Dede. They are amazing.

Joc
Honestly, I think you might have more players’ numbers than me.

Champ
It’s true, Yung Joc, Jr. LOL.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Avondale, AZ on March 27th, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Joc
I know I definitely wouldn’t be where I am without my parents and the way they raised me. Champ has always kept our family close and brought us together. I don’t think we would be the family we are without him and I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. It makes you understand how important family is and makes you do things together and have patience with your family.

Champ
My dad was playing professional baseball when I was born in 1987. So, I was with my mom most of the time when my dad was on the road. I was the first born, so that was pretty special for him to see. My dad gives Joc good advice. He’s helped him along the way. He’s a good dad for all of us kids. Three boys and a sister. He got a girl and I think he was happy.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

Champ
I don’t want to be the guy who will tell him how his batting average is going up or going down. I don’t want to be the guy … “Hey Joc, what are you doing swinging at bad pitches?” I don’t want to be that guy. I am a scout, I am a GM, I am Billy Beane.

Joc
Billy Beane? Champ, the stuff you come up with is out of this world.

Champ Pederson at Dodger's Spring Training in Glendale, AZ on March 28, 2016. (Photo by Taylor Baucom/The Players' Tribune)

ChampJocSignature

My Struggle With Alcoholism

If I could go back, I wish I could have told myself not to be so scared of being judged for asking for help. I wish I understood that this situation wasn't like a pitch that felt off. I couldn't just try to work it out on my own until it was fixed.

Read More