Former Atlanta Brave Otis Nixon’s journey in redemption
If you frequent Perk Avenue in the afternoons, you are likely to encounter an intense and determined man who will force you to ask: “where do I know him?” He has that silky smooth physical movement that suggests he was a top professional athlete, and he has a lovely lady on his arm who carries herself with the same self confidence as her man. You have encountered Otis Nixon and his talented spouse, Grammy Award nominee Candi Staton. Meet one of Morgan County’s most unique “retired couples.” Like many of his peers who have left their primary profession the question now is: how did he ever have time to work?
Otis Nixon has taken on an agenda that is truly ambitious and could impact all of us. Candi is equally involved with her husband in creating an alternative to men leaving our correctional system with $25 and a suit of clothes. He likens it to what he experienced in his baseball playing days: its “spring training in the art of living outside prison.” The Otis Nixon Foundation has one facility in Lithonia, and another being developed in Newton County. These privately funded facilities have as their goal: getting men ready to live outside prison and develop spiritually. Since retiring from Major League Baseball, Otis has earned a degree in divinity and been able to end a long-term addiction to alcohol and illegal substances. He feels his path is worth sharing with others.
He will tell you the cost of incarceration and parole run to the billions of dollars each year for Georgia and its taxpayers. With a recidivism rate of 70-plus percent, our society is coping with a crime cycle that accomplishes little other than warehousing a portion of society. Otis believes that with his experience in dealing with the demons of substance and alcohol abuse, and his faith, he can provide the means to shape lives. The unfortunate reality of American society today is that the vast majority of crime is the result of to a need to fund a habit, or the destructive behavior that substance abuse develops.
With Otis’ reputation he has opened doors with major firms who are sponsoring his effort via funding or in-kind services. He is in talks with various political leaders who want to see Georgia spending less on its prison/parole system, and want to know more about the results his foundation is achieving. Various people who are counselors and committed to changing the lives of men have joined Otis and Candi in this effort. Otis believes that he may be able to reverse the percentage of men who return to life on the streets such that the overwhelming majority are guided into a productive life. He talks of a success rate better than 65 percent.
Some of you may recall that Joe DiMaggio was the spokesperson for the applicance maker Mr. Coffee in the 1970s. I visited the Cooperstown Hall of Fame in 1970s and watched a youngster stand in front of a display of “Jolting Joe” and ask his parents: “why is Mr. Coffee in the Baseball Hall of Fame?” The kid did not know of Joe DiMaggio’s baseball exploits.
This story will have its best conclusion if some youngster sees a picture of Otis Nixon when he has achieved fame for changing men’s lives and remarks to his grandparents: “hey, did you know that Otis Nixon once played major league baseball and made a famous catch for the Atlanta Braves?” That’s when this story of redemption reaches its conclusion. Let’s all cheer him on.
Printed in the August 4, 2011 edition.