Kansas third baseman Michael Brooks making hits pay for local schools this spring

photo by: Matt Tait/Journal-World photo

Kansas sophomore Michael Brooks is shown in the KU dugout on Monday, April 10, 2023. Brooks is pledging $20 for every hit he gets this season to the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

In an era when college athletes are looking around every corner to see what kind of money they can make through name, image and likeness deals, one Kansas baseball player is looking to give money away.

Michael Brooks, a third-year sophomore from Wellington, Florida, announced back in late-February that he would donate $20 of his own money to the Lawrence Schools Foundation for every hit he registered this season.

To date, the KU third baseman, is on the hook for a $480 donation for the 24 hits he has recorded in KU’s first 35 games of the season.

Both for his sake and the sake of Lawrence’s public schools, he’s hoping that number is way higher by season’s end.

“I want to get a hit every at-bat, obviously,” Brooks recently told the Journal-World. “And it would be great to go higher than 45, maybe 50 or 60. As many as I can get.”

Forty-five hits is his current career high. But as the everyday starter at the third base in his first year with the Jayhawks, topping it is legitimately within reach. And Brooks’ teammates know it.

“My teammates actually (talk about it) a lot, especially after I got my first hit,” he said. “They were like, ‘Oh, there goes 20 bucks!’ I haven’t thought of it that way, but I know they do.”

Kansas redshirt sophomore Michael Brooks throws the ball to first during an April game against Kansas State. Kansas fell 5-4 on Friday, April 14, 2023.

The whole idea, which he dubs “Hits for Teachers,” came about in honor of his mom, Kristin, who is a physical education teacher back in Florida.

Brooks, who went to public school himself, said he is well aware of the issues teachers and school districts face when the funding is not there.

“I know it can be a struggle, and money is a problem,” he said. “So, I just felt like I should do something for the school district, and if not back home it could be here. My mom’s always been a school teacher, ever since I can remember, and she always talked about different kids every day she came home, and I just wanted to give back to kids like those.”

According to the tweet he posted to announce his plan, Brooks’ donation will be used “to provide school supplies for teachers and students.”

The tweet immediately received a reply from the Foundation’s Twitter account, but the interaction went way beyond that.

Dena Johnston, the executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation, said Monday that she and her staff had been in touch with Brooks and his parents and that they were overjoyed by his willingness to help out.

Johnston said she regularly updates the foundation’s staff and its 20 board members on Brooks’ progress and added that she was blown away when she first heard about his wishes to donate.

“We think it’s such a great story to share and such a fantastic opportunity to partner with Michael,” Johnston said. “It’s always especially exciting when someone from the younger generation can start something like that, particularly because the younger kids really look up to guys like Michael.”

“When people think about giving back to an organization or the community they often automatically think about donating money,” she added. “And that’s great. But I think it’s so neat that he’s using his time and talents in a creative way to donate.”

Brooks came to Lawrence after two seasons at the University of Central Florida near his hometown. After deciding to move on following the end of the 2022 season, KU and first-year head coach Dan Fitzgerald, was one of the first schools to reach out to him.

After considering his options and talking to the few people he knows who knew a little about Lawrence, Brooks chose KU over Oklahoma State and Florida State.

“Sight unseen,” he said.

So far, he’s loving his new home. Not only does he like the vibe and feel of Lawrence, but he also said he was happy to be a part of a program that has so many other newcomers and first-year players.

“It is hard, just getting to know new people and building that chemistry,” Brooks said. “But I kind of like it because I’m not the only guy that’s new here. It’s basically half of our team; and it’s just cool how fast we got to know each other and how close we are now.”

Brooks won the job at third base after what Fitzgerald described as a “special” fall, as much with his defense as what he does at the plate.

To date, Brooks is hitting .224 from the bottom of the Jayhawks’ order while registering 16 walks, 12 RBIs and five extra-base hits for the Jayhawks, who entered the week at 17-18 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

After opening conference play with three straight losses at TCU, Kansas took five of six from Baylor and No. 19 West Virginia before getting swept by Kansas State at home over the weekend. The Jayhawks will play five straight home games this week, with a mid-week series against Air Force on Tuesday and Wednesday followed by a three-game clash with Oklahoma State.

Regardless of how many more hits he games or games he helps the Jayhawks win, Brooks already has made quite an impression with his new team and in his new town.

“My teammates love it; they always ask me about it,” he said. “And after I tweeted it out, Fitz came up to me at practice and said he was really proud of me and he really respects me for what I’m doing.”

All of it from a guy who loves baseball and is far more worried about helping out others than lining his own pockets.

“None of that really concerns me,” he said of NIL opportunities. “I mean, if something comes up I’d definitely be open to it and would love to, but I’m not really going to go out of my way to do that. I just want to play ball.”


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