Thursday, February 21, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Reynolds Still Reaching Out -- Children's Foundation Latest Youth Program For Mariner

Teachers were convinced Harold Reynolds was some kind of a mental case.

He didn't behave as other children did in Corvallis, Ore., schools in the mid-1960s. Reynolds was placed in special-education classes because ``I was just not understood as a kid,'' the Seattle Mariner second baseman said.

``They thought I was mentally retarded because I played imaginary games with myself beyond the norm or the age in which you stop playing those games. I had to develop my own games because my family didn't have toys like G.I. Joe or Ninja Turtles and stuff like that.''

Reynolds was given every kind of test, from intelligence and speech tests to hearing and eye checks. But no one bothered to measure his long-range vision.

``What pulled me out of that was my dream, my vision. I set my goals and went after them,'' Reynolds said.

Yesterday Reynolds unveiled one of his goals, the Harold Reynolds Children's Foundation, an umbrella organization designed to support and inspire Washington's young and underprivileged.

``I see every kid in America having a dream like me, like playing basketball on the schoolyard and pretending to be Dr. J. or saying, `I want to be a doctor, or a lawyer or a farmer or a plumber.' I want to give them the opportunity to develop that.''

While others may stop to smell the roses, Reynolds cultivates a garden. This is a continuing pattern for the 30-year-old, raised as one of eight children from a low-income single-parent family.

His charitable work in Seattle began just after his first full season with the Mariners in 1987 when he started Rap Outreach. Its thrust was helping inner-city teen-agers resist the influences of gangs and peer pressure to do drugs.

Reynolds and Wayne Perryman developed and distributed more than 30,000 children's books with anti-drug, pro-family messages to about 1,000 Washington schools.

The two also underwrote and organized a Role Models Unlimited banquet in which 1,000 black men were invited to get involved with developing inner-city black youth. The organization failed to flourish for lack of a significant response, but Reynolds did not give up.

``We raised the consciousness level out there,'' Reynolds said. ``The key is following up.''

His Children's Foundation was established to consolidate his projects and provide a system to develop, fund and follow up. Perryman said Reynolds, who signed a $5 million, three-year contract a year ago, ``gave more than that $150,000'' for his projects last year alone.

``Part of the reason for starting this was because I wanted him to stop giving, or at least give more smartly,'' Perryman said. ``Harold can't say no. He feels embarrassed or guilty when people ask him for help. I want to make him feel comfortable about giving.''

It probably won't matter. That's his way. It goes back to his early teen years, when he visited San Diego to see his older brother, Donny, who played for the San Diego Padres. Harold noticed that Dave Winfield had set up a foundation to help the area's youth.

``The seed got planted,'' Rey-

nolds said. ``I thought, `When I get into a position where I'm set financially or status-wise, I want to have a foundation, too.' ''

His Foundation proposes projects ranging from basic to grand. It will continue to produce and distribute books, sponsor baseball clinics and a 10-day camp for disadvantaged youth.

Ultimately, the organization would like to make a film featuring five prominent black Americans, such as baseball and football star Bo Jackson or Dr. Ben Carson, a world famous brain surgeon, to show how individuals can overcome humble backgrounds to succeed.

Contributions can be made to the Harold Reynolds Children's Foundation, P.O. Box 562, Mercer Island, WA 98040.

Perryman, asked to be the Foundation's adminstrator so Reynolds can concentrate on baseball, says he's committed to Reynolds.

``People don't know what a heart of gold Harold has,'' said Perryman, citing an example when the two worked together on the Role Models Unlimited banquet.

``We were so busy preparing for that banquet, working 17 hours a day, when Harold gets a call from the Mariners. There was a little boy dying of cancer in the hospital and his last wish was to meet Harold Reynolds. Right away Harold says, `What's the name? What's the floor?' ''

Perryman said he tried to convince him a visit might be better after the banquet when he wasn't as busy or as pressured. But Reynolds put down his work and insisted on going.

``The little boy's eyes just lit up when he saw him,'' Perryman said. ``He had lost all his hair and was in this (oxygen) tent. Harold put his mask on, got inside the tent and sat with him for two hours, just playing games and talking to the boy.

``This guy is genuine. I'd do anything in the world for him. He has a heart of love all the way through.''

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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