From Big League Dreams to Skid Row: Former Baseball Player Turns Life Around

"Just like that, in one day," Javier Rivas said with a snap of his fingers. "Everything is gone."

A gifted athlete who found himself living in Los Angeles' Skid Row after suffering a career-ending injury is back on his feet with the help of a homeless shelter.

When Javier Rivas was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 1991, it appeared he was on his way to a promising career in the majors.

"I could not believe it, it was incredible. I was going to go play professional baseball," he said.

But those big league dreams turned into a nightmare after he blew out an elbow.

"Just like that, in one day," he said with a snap of his fingers. "Everything is gone."

Rivas grew up playing baseball in Puerto Rico. He later moved to Southern California and played baseball at Los Angeles City College.

"They said I was a five-tool player. So once the word gets around, the scouts start showing up," he said.


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His stellar play drew offers from four-year colleges, but Rivas opted for the lure of pro baseball.

Thirty-six games into his minor league career, he suffered the injury. Without a "Plan B," as Rivas calls it, his sales career in the real world was halted by drugs and he ended up losing everything.

On Skid Row, Rivas found a way out: the Weingart Center. He became one of the thousand or so people per year the Weingart Center sends back into the workforce.

"We are not just trying to provide basic needs like food and housing, but we're also trying to move you from the streets to actual self-sufficiency," said Kevin Murray, the Weingart president and CEO.

Rivas has come full circle as a Weingart counselor showing others a way out of homelessness.

"This is the moment I've been looking for," Rivas said. "I finally get a chance to start over again and do what I want to do with my life."

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