A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Legends’ Andy Shea a ‘Bigger Brother’
and mentor to wide-ranging ‘family’ of kids


Andy Shea and his extended family. (Photo provided)

Andy Shea and his extended family, Christian, Byron, Curtis and Daron. (Photo provided)

 

By Judy Clabes
KyForward editor

 

Andy Shea’s adult life has been consumed by baseball. That was until he met a kid named Christian. From there the world for Shea, a single, footloose sports-focused young professional, expanded dramatically.

 

Shea, general manager, president and CEO of the Lexington Legends, played baseball at Boston College until an injury sidelined his professional catcher aspirations. With a degree in marketing and human resources, he decided on a different track toward baseball – on the management side. He joined the family business, a minor league franchise owned by his father, William Shea, came to Lexington and started working his way up – from parking cars.

 

“Here I was 600 miles from home, getting yelled at for collecting $2 for parking, having no friends or family around, and wondering what my dad had against me,” Shea recalls with a smile. “I worked the parking lot, did season ticket sales door-to-door, and wore that hot PeeWee costume because I wasn’t tall enough for Big L . . .”

 

Yes, all that was dad’s idea, and today the younger Shea can clearly see the advantages.

 

That is just one of many life lessons Shea has learned, thanks to Christian.

 

Today, “big brother” takes top billing on Shea’s list of accomplishments.

 

He first met Christian just after his own 27th birthday, five years ago. Matched by Big Brothers/Big Sisters with a 10-year-old boy from a single-parent home, Shea regularly found his way to Harrison Elementary School in the Legends ballpark neighborhood to play some basketball with his “perfect match.”

 

“I’d spend an early-morning hour with him before school,” Shea says, “and it energized me more than the strongest cup of coffee ever could.”

 

To say the two connected would be an understatement. To say it changed both their lives would be absolutely an out-of-the-park home run.

 

In fact their accidental family would grow and grow, starting with Christian’s question during his sixth-grade year: “Can I bring a friend?”

 

Andy and his family. (Photo Provided.)

Andy and Curtis (Photo provided)

Enter Curtis, Christian’s older cousin who had come to live with Christian and his mom. Along the way Curtis’ three sisters entered the picture and then along came more friends – Daron, Byron, and Keyon.

 

And, oh yes, there’s another stray in the mix – Royal, the dog, who turned up at the ballpark with no place to go. He picked the right place to find a permanent home.

 

Big Brother became Bigger Brother, and Shea couldn’t be happier.

 

None of his growing family members have an intact real-family relationship. Fathers are absent and mostly unknown, moms are in and out of the kind of trouble that triggers Child and Family Services interventions, school – well, not quite a priority, stability not in the picture . . .

 

But today there is one positive relationship all of them can count on – and that’s Andy Shea.

 

“So many kids just see the bad things and think it’s the only way,” Shea says. “They need to see the other side.”

 

Andy and 'his" boys (Photo provided.

Andy and family (Photo provided)

The older girls drift in and out, finding a safe haven with Shea when there’s a need. But the boys are a permanent connection. He hears from each of them everyday, the anchor they can count on in their lives. The “I-love-you’s” go both ways. All have a key to the house “just in case.”

 

Byron, 14, lives with him full-time now. Shea has legal authority since Byron’s mom wasn’t available. Christian lives with an aunt and uncle, but stays in touch. Keyon, 17, is still in school, has a part-time job and will go to college. Daron, 15, lives with an older sister and her family, is an Academic All-American and also has a part-time job.

 

And Curtis, 20, the oldest of the boys and their “role model,” is finishing his sophomore year at Union College where he is a serious student and a star football player. Shea makes it to as many games as possible.

 

There’s a story there: Shea attended Curtis’ high school football games religiously and had helped the young athlete through a tough time when he was ready to call it quits. “You can’t quit on your team,” Shea told him. Curtis stuck it out, got decent grades and was headed to graduation. When Shea asked about college, Curtis admitted he hoped to go – but had no idea how to get there. Shea met with Curtis’ guidance counselor and assured that ACT deadlines were met.

 

Then, one Saturday morning, Shea sent Curtis to the basement of his home, equipped with a computer and some basic instructions, including: Don’t come out until you have applied to at least five schools.

 

The challenge: Curtis would figure out a way – through grants and scholarships and aid – to pay for his freshman year. If he succeeded Shea was good for the rest.

 

Curtis on the football field at

Curtis’ senior night at Lafayette High School (Photo provided)

The result: Curtis is a thriving Union College business major, making better grades than he ever did in high school, the youngest of seven children and the only one to go to college. He’ll be back living with Shea this summer.

 

Shea, sounding ever like his own dad, says, “I wanted the process to be his. He had to want it.”

 

“I think Curtis would make the greatest teacher of all time,” he adds with a touch of fatherly pride.

 

Long term, Shea hopes to create a nonprofit that will “do something” for kids. He has seen up close the impact a stable, positive relationship can have on kids, and he’d like to institutionalize that for more kids. He has a role model in his real family – his mom, Susan, a special ed teacher by profession, started a nonprofit in 2009 back home in Philadelphia, Dancing with the Students. It offers ballroom dancing classes to students, teachers and parents in low socio-economic areas. The students now perform in all kinds of public venues in Philadelphia.

 

Shea fully understands the impact positive family relationships can have – from his dad’s insistence on a strong work ethic to his mom’s dedication to teaching and social responsibility.

 

He’s now playing it forward for his own eclectic, patchwork family – and there’ll be a lot more of that story to be told.

 


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