By Giavonni Nickson
Six-time Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Kenny Lofton delivered a keynote address during the 12th annual Gary Chamber of Commerce Corporate Luncheon at the Majestic Star Casino.
Chamber President and CEO Chuck Hughes welcomed elected officials, Mayor-Elect Jerome Prince, Senator Eddie Melton, State Representative Earl Harris, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, Senator Lonnie Randolph, and Lake County Commissioner Kyle Allen, along with local business leaders Roosevelt Haywood, NIPSCO Executive Mike Suggs, and a host of Northwest Indiana community members.
Prior to delivering the keynote address, Lofton received awards in honor of his career achievements, philanthropy, and unwavering support of Northwest IN. Representative Earl Harris presented Lofton with a recognition award from the Indiana General Assembly. Senator Lonnie Randolph presented the Sagamore of the Wabash Award on behalf of Indiana’s Governor’s office.
Lofton was also recognized by the Kappa Alpha Psi alumni chapter.
During the luncheon, Lake County Commissioner Kyle Allen said Lofton has never forgotten where he came from. Because of Lofton’s positive representation of East Chicago and the State of Indiana, Lofton’s name often comes up when Representative Earl Harris, Senator Lonnie Randolph, and Senator Eddie Melton talk about the greatness of Northwest Indiana and the great people who come from the area during their discussions at the statehouse.
Lofton played baseball and basketball at Washington High School in East Chicago. The Houston Astros drafted Lofton in the 17th round of the1988 draft. Lofton played 20 games for the Astros and stole the first two of what would eventually be 622 career stolen bases. Lofton played for 11 teams during his 17-year MLB career, won four Gold Gloves (1993 -1996) as a center fielder, and started six All-Star games (1994 -1999). Lofton is ranked 15th all-time in Major League history for career stolen bases and 1st all-time with 34 post-season stolen bases.
Lofton retired after his 2007 season with a .299 lifetime batting average. The Cleveland Indians inducted Lofton into its Hall of Fame in 2010, and The Negro League Baseball Museum inducted Lofton into its Hall of Fame in 2018.
During his address Lofton humbly stated,” I’m not here to talk about all that, you can google that,” regarding his MLB success.
Instead, Lofton declared, “I’m here to tell my story. People see my glory, but they don’t understand my story.”
Growing up, Little League baseball was an outlet for Lofton. It helped keep him off the streets and out of trouble.
Lofton explained, “My goal has always been to make my family proud.”
His family cheered from the audience, “We are proud of you Kenny.”
Lofton credits the beginning of what would become his career success story to his grandmother who raised him. She taught him to be disciplined, responsible, and to act with integrity.
“She taught me to be bold, work hard, and dream big,” said Lofton of his grandmother as he shared memories about his East Chicago upbringing.
Before his grandmother passed, she asked Lofton to promise that he would graduate college. Lofton delivered on that promise in1990 graduating from the University of Arizona.
Lofton is one of two people to ever play in both the Final Four and the World Series.
At the luncheon, Lofton shared life lessons he learned while playing Major League Baseball.
“In baseball, you can hit 3 out of 10 and be considered an all-star. Think about it, that means you can fail 7 times out of 10 and be considered an all-star. Out of those seven times, you have the opportunity to step out and learn from your mistakes.”
Lofton talked about the benefits of learning from mistakes in order to succeed.
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland commended Lofton’s investment in giving back as a demonstration of Lofton’s genuine passion for the community, never expecting anything in return.
“I give back just to see social change with our kids because it’s very important to me,” said Lofton. “If young kids can see me and what I’ve accomplished, they can look up and say if he’s done it from here, so can I.”
Utilizing his media arts degree from the University of Arizona, Lofton along with business partner Brenton Early started Film Pool Inc. in 2004. The opportunity for Lofton to go into the TV Film industry was an easy segue. Film Pool does post-production film editing and develops original content for television and theater.
When asked to compare his baseball career to his career in the film industry, Lofton outlines a stark difference.
“In baseball, you work hard to get to the top and succeed based on your skills,” said Lofton. “Hollywood is tough. In Hollywood, success is not based solely on skills, it’s based in large part on who you know.”
Lofton, who has never backed down from a challenge, plans to leverage the hard work and discipline that helped him succeed in baseball to forge a new path of success in Hollywood.
Giavonni is a passionate freelance writer native of Gary IN. She covers business, politics, and community schools for the Chicago/Gary Crusader.