Imagine playing baseball with spikes two sizes too small for your feet.
Imagine swinging a bat while wearing sandals.
Imagine pitching barefoot.
TCU righthander Luke Savage doesn’t have to imagine.
He’s seen it on his mission trips to the Dominican Republic. He visited the country for the first time as a high school sophomore at Prestonwood Academy (Plano, Texas). He went again as a prep senior, going each time with his high school baseball team.
“We went there to build stoves, paint houses and bring supplies such as clothes and food,” Savage said. “We were also there to build relationships and share the gospel.”
As part of the trip, the Prestonwood guys also played baseball with and against the locals, and while they noticed tremendous talent, they saw something else, too.
“Their feet were all cut up,” Savage said of the Dominican kids. “They had a lot of blisters and other issues due to the lack of proper shoes.”
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Seeing that inspired Savage, who decided to create a charitable organization called Blessed Feet that accepts donated baseball shoes of all sizes and gives them to the Dominican Republic.
Savage came up with the name by thinking of one of his favorite Bible verses, Romans 10:15:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news.”
While in the Dominican, Savage befriended a pastor named Joel Alexander Cotes Ortiz, who tends to his flock in the town of San Pedro de Macoris.
“Fernando Tatis Jr.’s city,” said Ortiz, who added that his city has produced nearly 100 other major leaguers, including Sammy Sosa and Robinson Cano.
However, like much of the Dominican Republic, San Pedro de Macoris is very poor, and that left an impression on Savage.
“Luke told me: ‘I have something in my heart. I want to help your people’,” Ortiz said. “I said, ‘Let’s pray to God, and we will see what He has in store for us. But I believe God is working through you’.”
Once Savage returned to Texas, he kept in touch with Ortiz. Then, when the pandemic shut down baseball and just about everything else in March of 2020, the inspiration for Blessed Feet hit Savage.
With the help of his uncle, Ben Donley, and his high school coach, Mike Maack, Savage created his website: BlessedFeet.org.
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“That took about a year,” Savage said. “I had to learn how to code. I couldn’t have done it without my uncle and Coach Maack. They made sure it was all feasible.
“There are a lot of great ideas, but it’s no good if you don’t follow through.”
Like a perfect delivery off the mound, Savage followed through beautifully, launching the website in May of 2021, right after the Big 12 tournament ended.
Within two weeks, Savage had received 150 pairs of shoes, getting donations from Iowa, Tennessee, California, Oklahoma and Texas.
“I was shocked,” Savage said. “We were banking on collecting shoes mostly from family members and close friends.
“My teammates were extremely supportive. At least 10 teammates donated five pairs each. Some teammates emptied their entire garage and donated 20 pairs.”
Less than a year later, Savage has accumulated 1,500 pairs of baseball shoes. He is keeping them in a storage facility at his church and also at his parents’ house.
The plan is to hand-deliver the shoes this summer. Shipping them is not feasible because, sadly, many items of value are intercepted in the Dominican Republic by unkind souls, Savage said.
TCU coach Kirk Saarloos said he is not at all surprised by what Savage — who is just 20 years old — has accomplished.
“He’s very talented on and off the field,” Saarloos said of Savage, who had a 3.32 ERA in seven appearances as a true freshman last year, with TCU winning all three of his starts.
“These kids (in the Dominican) don’t have much, but Luke doesn’t sit on the sidelines. He had a vision, and he found a way to make a positive change in the world.”
Savage said he has also received donations of non-baseball shoes. For those, he has donated them to Texas charities, who give the shoes to local families as well as needy people in Africa and Asia.
This Blessed Feet project has been a perfect fit for Savage, who is doing a double major at TCU: Design and Political Science.
Depending on how his baseball career fares, he may or may not go to law school. He also has a love for design, which explains the business he launched while in high school, called “Savage Kustoms.” In essence, Savage adds his design flair to cleats sent to him by baseball players who want to increase their swag levels.
“I’m trying to take less orders now that we’re in season,” Savage said. “Some designs can take anywhere between six hours to two days to complete.”
While that is a business, Blessed Feet is a non-profit organization.
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“His motivations are pure,” Donley said of Savage. “He’s very responsible with what people give him.”
Donley said he has been part of non-profit organizations before, but he was stunned at the quick response to Blessed Feet.
“It feels like a cool movement,” Donley said. “Luke deserves credit. If he sees a need, he takes care of it. He’s not just a talker. He’s a doer.
“Luke is motivated by love and kindness.”
Maack said he felt honored that Savage included him in the project.
“Luke is a fierce competitor on the field, but he has the softest heart off it,” Maack said. “He puts in extra effort in baseball practice, and he puts in extra effort in this, too. He won’t let it fail.”
Savage said he can’t wait to deliver all these shoes to the Dominican Republic this summer.
“I don’t think I will have words,” Savage said. “Being able to see their faces is going to be a ‘once in a lifetime’ thing.”