CUTLINE: ABOVE - REYNOLDS WAS GRAND MARSHAL OF SEATTLE'S PIPE (PARTNERS IN PUBLIC EDUCATION) PARADE, APPEARING WITH SEATTLE MAYOR NORM RICE ON THE REVIEWING STAND.
CUTLINE: LEFT - THE 29-YEAR-OLD SECOND BASEMAN IS A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN. HERE HE PRAYS WITH DICK CHURCH, PASTOR OF HIS HOMETOWN CHURCH IN CORVALLIS, ORE., BEFORE LEAVING FOR THE BALLPARK.
CUTLINE: REYNOLDS HAS HAD HIS MOMENTS IN THE SPOTLIGHT AND HIS TIME ON THE BENCH. IN THE 10TH INNING OF A 1987 GAME, HE EXPRESSES DISMAY AFTER BEING THROWN OUT AT THE PLATE.
CUTLINE: TOP - RELIGIOUS FAITH HAS DRAWN REYNOLDS' FOCUS BEYOND BASEBALL.
CUTLINE: ABOVE - LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD COME TO REYNOLDS FROM FANS WANTING AUTOGRAPHS AND PARENTS SEEKING ADVICE TO HELP THEM DIRECT THEIR CHILDREN TO THE RIGHT PATH.
CUTLINE: THIS YEAR'S OPENING-NIGHT CROWD IN THE KINGDOME INCLUDED LESLIE LANE, REYNOLDS' FIANCEE; JOHN REYNOLDS, HAROLD'S FATHER, WHO LIVES IN OAKLAND, CALIF.; AND LETTIE REYNOLDS, HIS MOTHER.
CUTLINE: RIGHT - REYNOLDS GREW UP IN CORVALLIS, ORE., AND WENT ON TO BREAK MANY SCHOOL RECORDS SET BY HIS BROTHERS.
CUTLINE: BELOW - REYNOLDS WAS CLOSE TO HIS GRANDMOTHER, IN THE BACKGROUND, WHO HELPED RAISE HIM IN CORVALLIS. SHE DIED LAST FALL; ``IT WAS IN THOSE LAST SIX OR EIGHT YEARS OF HER LIFE,'' HE SAYS, ``THAT I GOT SO INTERESTED IN GOD AND THE BIBLE.''
CUTLINE: AUTOGRAPH-SEEKING FANS ASK REYNOLDS TO GET KEN GRIFFEY JR., THE FANS' NEW FAVORITE.
Harold Reynolds never meets any strangers.
Everyone is - at least - an instant acquaintance.
There's an automatic kinship that flows like an electric current from the two-time American League All-Star and two-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman for the Seattle Mariners baseball club.
It's something that some people think makes him too trusting, too vulnerable. It's also one of his greatest gifts, along with the range and ability to cover second base like a vacuum cleaner.
In an elevator at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Manhattan, a young woman is staring at the lighted numbers as they check off the floors on the way to the lobby.
``Hello,'' says Reynolds.
The woman is startled, but nods in his direction.
``Those are great sunglasses,'' he says as the car stops and the doors slide open.
The woman pauses, smiles, says thank you and looks at him for the first time. Then she's gone, and Reynolds already is making conversation with the bellman - asking about his day and offering a handshake.
The Mariners are in New York for a series with the Yankees. Players are lounging around the hotel or engaging in their favorite pastime: eating. Some are hesitant to venture out into Manhattan. But Reynolds hails cabs and hops subways and moves around as though he still was in Corvallis, Ore., which both he and Oregon State University call home.
It's part of a personal style that made former Mariner third baseman Darnell Coles call Reynolds ``Harold Dukakis'' when they were roommates. ``He's like a man running for office and kissing babies.''
Reynolds may not seek political office any time soon, but he is on a mission that echoes other professional athletes who talk about helping kids stay off drugs and get their lives together. The difference is that the talk seems to follow through to the way this 29-year-old, born-again Christian has chosen to live.
His is a lifestyle that doesn't fit the traditional mold of a professional athlete and doesn't go along with the three-year, $5 million contract he signed this year.
Reynolds doesn't smoke or drink, and ``dang'' or ``shoot'' is pretty serious swearing for this youngest of eight children. He adheres to a values system learned in a single-parent home in Corvallis, a small town with small-town traditions.
But he can't be dismissed as a hick from the sticks or a religious fanatic with narrow vision and closed mind.
There's a person behind the Bible quotations and clean lifestyle - a person who keeps baseball and big money in perspective and sees his high-paying position as a platform that gives him access to his No. 1 priority: kids.
``He just does so much he doesn't have to do, like coming up with $25,000 for that dinner for the Role Models Unlimited,'' says Coles, who was traded earlier this season to the Detroit Tigers. ``He called me at home in Florida after it was over and he was touched by the way people reached out and expressed their feelings.''
Coles was referring to the ``Back Home Banquet for Brothers'' in Seattle last January, which Reynolds underwrote to help an organization that challenges adults to become active role models for children - particularly African-American men to be mentors to young African-American males.
More than 1,000 African-American men attended the black-tie affair and discussed the roles they should play in the lives of children. The banquet is an example of
what many people call Reynolds' ``big heart.'' But it's also an example of how his good intentions sometimes lead to frustration.
Not much has happened since the banquet. The president of Role Models Unlimited resigned after criticism for being more concerned about funding and national exposure than actually doing something to help children. A new president has been appointed, but there have been no announcements of any planned activities.
``Everyone was excited after the dinner, but they never went to that next step of organizing what should be done afterward,'' Reynolds says. ``I left to go to spring training and entrusted the follow-through to others, since it wasn't my organization.
``I was really encouraged and I still am. People just have to stay focused on the fact that kids are dying,'' Reynolds says. ``Everyone lost focus. That's what disappointed me most. I sat in on several meetings with the heads of Role Models and it made me want to throw up. I heard everything but the cause, and that hurt.''
The ``cause'' is central in Reynolds' life. It is more important than everything except his family. It's even more important than baseball.
``I love playing baseball and I understand the importance of preparation, extra work and focus,'' Reynolds says. ``But if I'm not affecting lives with the platform God has given me through my talents, I'm just wasting time. Baseball is a just a platform.''
It was a platform he was ready to quit just four years ago.
He had been called up from the minor leagues to replace popular Mariner second baseman Jack Perconte, who was sent to the minors.
``That first night when the lineup was announced, everyone booed my name. I had never been booed like that in my life,'' says Reynolds. ``It scared me. I was thinking, `Should I be here in the big leagues?' I didn't play well and got no hits that night. They booed me every time I came to bat and every time a ball was hit to me.''
In a home game a couple of days later, Reynolds hit a triple and still was booed. It
helped a little when Mariner Manager Chuck Cottier told Reynolds not to worry, because he was the team's regular second baseman.
Two days later, Perconte was back at second base for the Mariners and Reynolds sat on the bench for 18 days straight. He played in one game of a doubleheader and then spent another 20 days on the bench.
``It had been the longest year of my life,'' Reynolds says. ``I went home and told my minister, Dick Church, that I wanted to quit baseball and go into youth ministry and wear jeans and hang out and work with young people.''
Church is the pastor of the Corvallis Four Square Church and has been Reynolds' pastor for six or seven years.
``I talked to Harold about the death of a vision and how when it looks like it's all over, it can really just be the beginning,'' Church says. ``I also asked him wouldn't he have greater access to kids as a professional athlete than an ex-athlete.''
``That's when I realized there was more to life than baseball,'' Reynolds says. ``For so long in the minor leagues, you dream that happiness is being in the big leagues. That first year tested my faith. I became a man that year and it made me feel that God was preparing me for something greater than baseball.''
The quest for something greater than baseball began two weeks later when Reynolds reported for winter ball in Puerto Rico and began a urban ministry working with youngsters in churches and recreation centers - even though he spoke no Spanish.
That experience led Reynolds to an association with Tom Roy's Unlimited Potential Baseball Clinic out of Warsaw, Ind., which has taken him to more than 13 countries - including Japan, Saudi Arabia, England and China - teaching baseball and sharing the gospel.
With his new vision intact, Reynolds won a starting spot with the Mariners in 1986. But he batted only .222 and decided ``if you talk to people about being the best, you have to be the best.''
He began telling everyone who would listen that he would make the 1987 American League All-Star team. ``When he told me his decision to make the All-Star team, I wanted to tell him he needed to worry about making the Mariners, because he hadn't had a great year,'' says older brother Don. ``But he had that look.''
Don says Harold gets ``that look - the same look he gets when he turns the perfect double play'' - when he's focused and determined. It usually means he can do whatever he sets his mind to.
Harold hit .275 in 1987 and made the All-Star team. He hit .283 in 1988 and became the first two-time Mariner All-Star. Last year he hit .300 and missed the All-Star Game, but won his second straight Gold Glove Award for his inspired defensive play. This year teammates Ken Griffey Jr. and Randy Johnson got the All-Star spots, and Reynolds got nothing.
But the Gold Gloves lies unattended in a spare room in his modest Renton home, and he spends more time talking about restarting his Rap Outreach program than he does about the All-Star Game.
Rap Outreach began last season, when Reynolds spent $7,000 on Mariner tickets so youngsters could come to Saturday home games and spend time before the game talking with ballplayers about life. He's working with a local church to reinstitute the program.
``Harold has the vision to do something like Rap Outreach,'' says Mariner first baseman and designated hitter Alvin Davis. ``Some days I don't even feel like coming to the ballpark, let alone dealing with 150 kids every Saturday.
``He's got a spiritual maturity that is over and above faith, and an unbelievable outgoing personality,'' Davis says. ``I can't imagine how many people he knows and spends time with on the road and - as pro
athletes - we're in a position not to be bothered if we don't want to be.''
It's the relationship with his grandmother - who died in September - in Corvallis that most family members attribute to molding Reynolds' personality. ``My grandmother was so wise. She knew so much. It was like talking to a history book,'' Reynolds says. ``It was in those last six or eight years of her life that I got so interested in God and the Bible.''
Lettie Reynolds agrees that her mother and her youngest child ``shared something that made him more open and outgoing with his spirituality.''
Corvallis comes up a lot in conversations with Reynolds. Growing up there had a lasting impact.
``I stood out in a crowd,'' he says. ``We were one of five black families in town. If I went somewhere, everyone remembered the black guy. That kept me out of trouble. People knew who I was.''
Reynolds doesn't remember personally experiencing racism in Corvallis, but knows ``after talking to my brothers, that they faced that stuff.''
Sports became a focal point for the family.
``We had to have a close family and had to have outlets like athletics,'' says Don, the oldest brother. ``Our social events revolved around athletics.''
Harold was a teen-ager in the '70s after there had been gains in U.S. race relations. His world was different from that of his older siblings.
``The first time it really hit me that I was black was when I went to Oakland in the seventh or eighth grade. I had never seen so many black people in my life and I was scared,'' Reynolds says. ``A few years later in college, I went to a party at San Diego State and all the black people were clean (well-dressed) and I didn't know how to dance. I felt square.''
Reynolds didn't spend much time in college. He was drafted by the Mariners in 1980 after one semester at San Diego State and another in junior college in La Canada, Calif. He was drafted on the merits of a sparkling career at Corvallis High School, where he played varsity basketball, was all-state in football and baseball, and broke all the sports records of his older brothers.
But things weren't all good times and ballgames for a single-parent family with eight children and a
mother who did domestic work most of her life.
Lettie Reynolds remembers telling her children they were having ``poke and grits'' for dinner. That meant to poke out your lips and grit your teeth, because there was nothing to eat.
``There were tough times,'' says Harold, who remembers eating a lot at homes where his mother worked. ``But the youngest never the feels the total impact. Everyone else would go hungry, but they'd see that the baby got some grub. I heard the stories, but I never saw it.''
He also never saw the relationship between his mother and father - a relationship that ended before he was 2 years old.
John and Lettie Reynolds met and married in Eugene and had eight children: Sharon, Debbie, Don, Larry, Ron, Tim and Harold.
``Things really tightened up when the second child came,'' says John Reynolds. ``It was a constant battle. Always fighting. Too poor to leave and too poor to stay. That's where the conflicts start to come in.''
The conflicts escalated. One day Lettie dropped John off at the plywood plant where he was working. She never returned.
``She's the only woman I've ever seen move an entire four-bedroom house in eight hours with no help,'' says John. ``I walked the 10 miles home from work and she had left me with one skillet, one plate and one blanket. The blanket is out in my truck now.''
Lettie Reynolds left the kids with her mother - who had moved to Eugene - went to Corvallis and found a job. Several months later, she got a house and moved the children to Corvallis.
John never looked for his family.
``It bothered me, but what are you going to do? All the time with no money, no food, hard feelings. A person begins to think they can do better on their own,'' he says. ``I wanted to see the kids from day one. But you have to put that behind you.''
That was 1963. John moved to Oakland, where he still lives. In 1967, Lettie contacted him and he began his annual Thanksgiving visits to Oregon.
Despite those visits, there wasn't much of a relationship between John and Harold Reynolds. John saw Harold play in a Babe Ruth League Championship in California, once with the Mariners in 1983 and not again until 1985. That was when Harold asked him to dinner and to a ballgame. ``I wanted to ask him what he was thinking about back then and how could he leave eight kids,'' says Harold. ``I came to the conclusion he gave up and quit on us.''
But Harold doesn't feel deprived because there was no father in the home. ``I
had two wonderful parents in my mother and my grandmother,'' he says. ``They taught me to love and respect people because of who they are, and not because of sex or race.''
Harold Reynolds knows everyone. During batting practice at Yankee Stadium, he walks over to the Yankee dugout and everyone has a warm greeting. The bat boys and stadium attendants call his name.
A man who is cleaning the stands before the game runs down to renew his acquaintance with Reynolds. After games on the road, inevitably, there's someone who has brought a delinquent child with the express purpose of meeting Reynolds.
Mariner Manager Jim Lefebvre calls Reynolds a ``team leader,'' a ``complete player,'' an ``excellent hitter with men on base'' and a ``very positive young man, who does a lot of good for people.''
If there's a but, it's when Lefebvre says, ``I've heard people say he does too much. He's got to focus on what he does in the ballpark. He does so many things for people that he doesn't take credit for - almost too much. But he's got to keep the focus.''
Reynolds may have a little less time for sitting on park benches come Nov. 10, when he marries Leslie Lane, a 23-year-old Toronto native who grew up riding horses and speaking French.
The pair met four years ago, corresponded for a year and spent time together when the Mariners came to Toronto.
In 1987, Reynolds flew her and a girlfriend to Seattle. On that trip Lane became a Christian. ``Harold was never religious with me. He was Christian, but never fake religious,'' Lane says. ``He never preached to me. He'd just say he was going to church and asked if I wanted to go.''
Lane moved to Seattle in March and set up residence in a separate apartment that Reynolds pays for.
``I felt she needed to live here so we could know each other and she'd know what Harold was like after hitting .200 after two months of the season,'' says Reynolds. ``But I could never live with anybody. That's not compatible with my life. Everything I've lived for and grown up with would be thrown out of the window by living with somebody.
``People say, `Make sure and get a prenuptial agreement,' '' says Reynolds. ``I say, `Shoot, no. If she changes, she changes. That's the chance I have to take.' ''
He's equally certain that he isn't going to change a whole lot in the future. In 10 years, he sees himself ``financially free to
do whatever I want to - to spend time with high-school kids and do some touring, but not coaching.''
He wants to work with Little League, because ``the majors have too much bureaucracy and too much travel.'' He plans to stay in the Northwest and would like to play until he's 35.
But there won't be any retirement from his work with young people. That's obvious on a recent Saturday morning when he stands in jeans and a sweater on a platform in Memorial Stadium.
The occasion is the annual parade for Partners in Public Education. Reynolds tells a crowd of young people that he wants to ``share some things that are on my heart,'' that he is ``deeply hurt by the rise in teen suicide,'' that they as young people have ``so much to live for'' and that he loves them.
It is short and unrehearsed. It isn't filled with Bible quotations or condemnations of living in a modern world. It suddenly makes sense when he says baseball is only a platform and a $5 million salary is less important than standing in an open field talking to children.
It's also easy to see why he never meets a stranger.
DON WILLIAMSON IS A EDITORIAL COLUMNIST FOR THE SEATTLE TIMES.