Chris completed his senior season at Clayton High School in Clayton, N.C., where he was 8-3 with a 1.75 ERA while being named the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference Player of the Year.
Archer played baseball and football against Jerry Sands and future NFL wide receiver Brandon Banks.Chris was teammates on the North Carolina high school All-Star team, which includedDustin AckleyandKyle Seager.
He signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship, but instead signed with the Indians.
Chris pitched for the United States national baseball team in the qualifying tournament for the 2011 Pan American Games. Defeating the Cuban national baseball team, USA Baseball called Archer's game the International Performance of the Year.
Archer's biological mother is Sonya Clark. She would often go watch Chris pitch while at Clayton High School in North Carolina. She lives in nearby Raleigh.
Clayton is a small town of around 7,000 people. Chris was raised in Clayton by Ron Archer, a stocky man in his 50s with a coarse, white beard and a gleaming pair of blue eyes. Technically, Ron is Chris's step-grandfather. He and Sonya's mother Donna married shortly before Chris was born—when Sonya was just 16. But it's apparent the bond between Ron and Chris is as strong as that of a father and son.
"I brought him home from the hospital," says Ron, who was raised in a military home and is a manager at a hardwood flooring company in nearby Garner. "From the very start, it was understood we were raising Chris and he was our son. That's my world—Chris."
Chris does not shy away from inquiries about his past. He did ask that Sonya not be interviewed, and said he doubts his biological father, whom he's never met, has any idea where he is today.
"I'm pretty sure that he's not," says Chris, when asked if he thought his father was aware of Chris's accomplishments as Clayton High's starting quarterback on the football team and the baseball team's ace. "If he was, he would call or keep in touch. But that's not something I dwell on. My real mom put me up for adoption for a reason and I am fortunate to have two wonderful parents who have raised me and taught me everything I know. I don't think about my real father."
Ron and Donna have been the ones alongside Chris from the beginning, and willingly so. It wasn't easy at first. Chris, whose biological father is black, accepted Ron and Donna, who are both white, perhaps because they were all he knew, even when others weren't as accepting in the community.
"When Chris was real young, we might have gotten some strange looks, but it was a child," Ron says. "We were raising a child. And that was all that we cared about."
They bought the shin guards when Chris played soccer, the high tops when he got into basketball, and the glove when he prepared for baseball tryouts as a seventh grader. And it was Ron who consoled Chris when he came home from tryouts, dejected following the news he had not made the team. (Alan Matthews-Baseball America-4/10/06)
Chris was heading into his junior season at North Carolina’s Clayton High, just starting to pitch full time, when a friend inquired if he wanted to throw with her older brother, who'd been drafted by the Red Sox and was playing minor league ball. Davey Penny asked Archer what he threw, and he told him mostly fastballs and curveballs. Penny suggested he try a few other pitches, showing him grips for a two-seam fastball and a slider.
“And it’s the same slider I throw to this day,’’ said Archer, who now throws them quite often, and quite well, the top weapon in an arsenal that has elevated him to be an all-star.
THE POWER OF BOOKS
- Credit Archer's parents for having the foresight to give Ron Walker their blessing to become a part of their son's life. Of course, given the right person, what parents wouldn't want their son or daughter to have that extra person in their life who could be a guiding light, a sounding board and a friend all rolled into one? Along the way, Walker helped Archer see that he had more talent for baseball than football, a game he excelled at. He also helped the lights go on for the real parts of life that don't include a jock strap.
"What I wanted to do for Chris was to help him minimize the mistakes that I made in life," Walker said. "I was just trying to help him shorten his learning curve." Initially, Walker wanted to get Archer turned on to reading, because becoming an avid reader had provided him a foundation and had been a turning point in his life.
"I started reading and trying to be the best person I could be and doing some personal development stuff," Walker said. "I introduced him to a book, and he was like, 'Coach, I hate to read.' And I said, 'You don't hate reading, you hate what you've been made to read.'"
Walker gave Archer a copy of Spencer Johnson's motivational book Who Moved My Cheese? Archer devoured the book and wanted more. Not only did reading books serve Archer in helping him learn, the content of his reading, much of which was motivational, applied to many things in his life and opened another avenue for dialogue with his mentor.
In August 2013, Chris was reading I Am: The Power of Discovering Who You Really Are, by Howard Falco. He hasn't so much been reading the book as he has been savoring it, taking time to jot notes in the margins as he reads. Archer's explanation is simple: He wants to absorb what he's reading and reflect on the words.
Alas, thinking too much can be a dangerous action for baseball players, since the game they play requires single-mindedness and focus. Random thoughts can serve as a distraction. Catcher Jose Lobaton smiled when asked if Archer overthinks.
"Yeah, he does that sometimes," Lobaton said. "I think some pitchers do that. Sometimes they're just thinking, thinking, thinking. Every time I go to the mound, I say, 'Stop thinking, just feel. What are you feeling in that moment? What is the pitch that you feel in your hand?'"
In 2013, Archer stood before a room of boys and young men who had crossed the boundary of at-risk and proceeded directly to the Pinellas County Juvenile Detention Center, more than a few in silver handcuffs.
Archer, just 24 at the time, had spent some time at-risk himself, and not that long ago. It was kid stuff mostly, he recalled—some petty theft, other incidents he's not too proud of—on the streets near Raleigh, N.C. He was a bit lost, a little turned around, a biracial teen with blond-haired, blue-eyed parents.
Years later, making a living as a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, Archer looked out at mostly brown faces. A boy raised his hand. "Who is the most important influence in your life?" he asked.
Archer thought about his parents. A mentor he thought of as "part father figure, part brother, part baseball coach, part spirituality coach." David Price, a teammate. But most important?
He pulled a thick paperback from his gray satchel. Its cover was curled, the binding stretched against a blue pen acting as a bookmark. Archer had underlined passages in Reflections on the Art of Living, by Joseph Campbell.
"If you're not putting anything into your head," he said, "you're just going to think what everybody else around you thinks. You're just going to do what that television programming says."So he reads and he watches. He thinks. He ponders The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Outwitting the Devil, and The Alchemist, then hands them off to friends. "My soul is old," he said.
He was born to a black father, whom he met for the first time this spring, and a white mother. When Chris was 2, his mother's mother and her husband adopted him. When Archer talks about his parents, it is they: Donna and Ron Archer of Clayton, N.C.
He does not believe in the concept of luck. Too random. From his chair at his locker, he flipped a shoe into the middle of the room. Where it landed, where it stopped tumbling, that, he said, was luck. Random. "But I will say that I was very fortunate to have the people who raised me," he said. "It's all divine. I'm not a religious person. But I am spiritual. There was a reason they came to me. Luck is something you don't understand."
"I'm trying to do everything I can to pay forward what was given to me," he said. "My parents, two white parents, selflessly adopted a biracial child in the south. That's just to start with. Every day my Dad told me, 'You're my world.' I was not even his blood. And now baseball gives me the platform to impact thousands, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people."
"I think it's a very special thing to see," David Price said. "A lot of guys could be in the position Chris Archer is in, playing ball, and that's all they'd see. They don't think about how they got here or what they can do with it. To think, that selflessness at that age. It's very special. Those are the guys you really cheer for."
He's been to Boys & Girls Clubs. He's been to the YMCA. And to juvenile hall. He shares his story, the course he chose before it chose him, and why.
"I know that I'm on this earth to inspire other people. Because other people inspired me." (Tim Brown - 9/17/13)
Chris has an outgoing personality. He is likable and friendly. Being raised by a loving and nurturing grandmother and her husband, Archer has become a young man all parents would be happy to call son.
A conversation with Archer can range from a discussion about pitching to a book he's recently read. In between, choice morsels about motivation, kindness and the road to success are sure to leave his lips, all in a sincere and earnest fashion.
- Archer is spindly and thin—built a lot like Julian Tavarez, formerly of the Cardinals and Red Sox.
In the spring of 2010, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Chris as the 15th-best prospect in the Cubs' organization. And in the winter before 2011 spring training, they had Archer as the #1 prospect in the Chicago Cubs' farm system.
After coming to the Rays in the Matt Garza trade, Archer was ranked third-best prospect in Tampa's organization in the spring of 2012. And he moved back up to #1, this time in the Rays' organization, in the winter before 2013 spring training.
In 2010, Archer was named the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
In 2012, he was named the Rays' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He led the International League in strikeouts (139) and whiffs per nine innings (9.8).
- In 2008, Rays teammate David Price first met Archer while the two worked out at Vanderbilt, where Price attended school and pitched for the Commodores.
Archer made an immediate impression on Price. "From the first time I met him, I could tell he was raised the right way, that's a big part of it," Price said. "I could tell he had the work ethic—the determination. He had that right mindset to want to continue to learn and grow in the game of baseball. That's what he does, he comes to the field every day to get his work in. He's a great teammate, he's a great person."
Thinking about things and taking time for introspection appeals to Archer, who is passionate about learning. "He says a lot of stuff nobody else really understands," Price said. "But that's just kind of the way he says things, and he uses bigger words because he reads a lot of books, and we don't all have the vocabulary Arch has."
Archer enjoyed an enriching experience in the winter of 2014, when he paid a visit to Fort Bragg, the renowned Army installation located in Fayetteville, N.C. "Fox Sports told me the details about it, and it was in North Carolina, about an hour away from where I live, so I had to jump on an opportunity, because I never really interacted with the military before," Archer said. "And obviously, I had an appreciation. But it magnified after my visit."
"I now have a greater appreciation and respect for what those guys do on a day-to-day basis, hearing personal stories of why they joined," Archer said. "What they plan on doing in the future. What all goes on at a military base. I mean, it was cool for me. It was a great experience." (Chastain - mlb.com - 02/19/14)
Spring 2015: Chris Archer broadened his horizons during the offseason by taking a trip abroad. He traveled to South Africa as part of Major League Baseball's ambassador program, which helps build awareness of the game in different countries. Not only did he enjoy the trip, but he came away with a new perspective
According to Archer, South African baseball players don't participate in the sport with expectation of making a lot of money.
"They're playing strictly for the love of the game," Archer said. "That was so cool."
Archer made a discovery while observing that mentality.
"I learned that all the material stuff in life is worthless if you don't have love," Archer said. "That's life. Baseball, just play the game the way they do. So every time I put on a uniform, grab a glove, [I] play for the love of the game."
Rays manager Kevin Cash characterized Archer as a deep thinker, highly intellectual ad very caring.
"He really cares," Cash said. "He cares about what he's doing, and he cares about the people around him, too."
Archer continues to evolve professionally. Included in his growth is a willingness to embrace new ideas, particularly when doing so might aid his performance or enhance his life. For example, his approach to nutrition and health. During the offseason, he underwent food-allergy testing. Why? To eliminate any possible deterrents to performing well.
"These are things you can't tell from the eye," Archer said. "But your body reacts in a negative way. And, long-term, you never know what kind of effect it's going to have on you. And in the present moment, you're not going to be as recovered as you possibly could be.
"Now I know some things that cause extra inflammation. And inflammation is the root of disease. It's also what I'm trying to be rid of by the fifth day. I don't want my shoulder to be a little extra inflamed and not have the same life. So eliminating some of those things, I feel, has helped me. Might be the reason why I feel great."
Putting the right food in his body is a priority. That means eating "clean."
"It's necessity, in my opinion," Archer said. "I always talk about maximizing my potential on the field. A piece of the recipe of being great is nutrition. In 2014, we worked with a food company that was delivering a couple of meals a day to make it a little easier for us," Archer said. "Now, I have a personal chef I work with in Tampa, and on the road, we're just going to load up on Whole Foods."
Archer has been known to show his emotions on the mound. When asked if starting on Opening Day will make him emotional, he answered: "I don't know. I'll have to tell you afterwards."
"I'm definitely going to do my best to block it out and prepare," Archer said. "Because at the end of the day, it is just a game. They all have equal importance.
"There's been ceremonies pregame on days that I've pitched. I'm just going to try and block it out. Do my normal routine prior to the game. Then at whatever time the game starts, I'm going to be ready." (B Chastian - MLB.com - April 3, 2015)
September 12, 2015: The first time Archer met new Rays manager Kevin Cash at lunch, there was no small talk.
"What did Corey Kluber do to turn his career around?" Archer asked Cash, who'd been Cleveland's bullpen coach in 2014 when Kluber won the American League Cy Young Award. Cash was amazed at the first question out of Archer's mouth. But now, after a season managing him, the skipper understands.
"For a young pitcher to realize this guy [Kluber] struggled for a time and [wanting to know] what was his secret to success in winning the Cy Young, it showed me a lot about where Archer's mind was and where he was headed," said Cash. "He's lived up to that, and proved it day in and day out. Arch is a young pitcher, but he carries himself like a veteran.
"Christopher is just 26, but don't let the age fool you. I've seldom spent time with a player so young who can put this very difficult game in such perspective. If he has a poor outing, there's not sugarcoating. He's extremely accountable," said Cash. "Being a good teammate and being accountable are probably as good as any qualities you can have in this game."
Archer is a thinking man's player. It's so refreshing to hear him rehash a pitching performance.
"I try not to judge myself based on the outcome," said Archer, looking straight into my eyes with conviction. "I try to focus on the process and where I was mentally. I was in a good place. Sometimes they're going to hit missiles right at people and sometimes they're going to get the bat on the ball and find a hole. They found holes, but I was encouraged by the way we bounced back." (H Bodley - MLB.com - September 12, 2015)
The Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced the winners of its annual awards. Chris won the 3025 Paul C. Smith Champion Award.
The Paul C. Smith Champion Award is presented to the Rays player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field. The award is named for Paul C. Smith, who covered Tampa Bay for MLB.com until his death on Feb. 26, 2005.
Archer is normally glued to his television during the League Championship Series and World Series, but he had a much closer view of baseball's best yearly event in the fall of 2015.
Archer, the Tampa Bay Rays' All-Star starting pitcher and candidate to win the American League Cy Young Award, worked with ESPN during the World Series, providing analysis for "Baseball Tonight" and also for games broadcast on ESPN Radio. Needless to say, he paid close attention to the World Series action between the Royals and Mets.
For the most part, players on teams not involved in the postseason enjoy watching the playoffs as their offseason gets under way. Archer has always paid close attention to the games, although he tries not to go into baseball overload during the Division Series, when games are played practically around the clock.
Archer does like to decompress for a couple days after his own season ends, after all.
"It's hard to watch all the Division Series, because you sit at home all day," he said. "I've also been doing it for 10 months before that. But when it comes down to the Championship Series and World Series, I pretty much watch every game."
Archer's interactions on Twitter and other social media avenues, where he provides in-depth analysis and helps fans view the game through his eyes, earned him the 2015 Esurance MLB Award for Best Social Media Personality.Archer received his GIBBY (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) Award before the Rays' game with the White Sox at Tropicana Field along with teammate Kevin Kiermaier, who won the MLB Esurance Award as Best Defensive Player.
For Archer, social media aren't simply for posting photos of food or ballparks he's visiting. He wants his posts to mean something, to provide an insight and access that his more than 58,000 Twitter and more than 61,000 Instagram followers normally wouldn't have. (Footer - MLB.com - 4/15/16)
October 2016: Just in time for the World Series, Cartoon Network’s “Uncle Grandpa” animated series will sport a Fall Classic theme on Oct. 22.
The show will air at 12:15 p.m. and will feature Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer, Baltimore Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones, Houston Astros second baseman José Altuve, Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price and New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard.The major-leaguers will attempt to help Uncle Grandpa train his struggling Little League squad.
November 2016: Chris Archer was a senior at Clayton (N.C.) High School in the spring of 2006, when the World Baseball Classic debuted as the sport's premier international tournament.
"I still remember watching Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens take the field for Team USA," Archer recalled. "I was in awe. I realized there was no higher level of international competition for our sport. This is the equivalent of the World Cup of soccer.
"I told myself I wanted to be part of it someday. Subconsciously, I've kept that as part of my motivation throughout my career. Along with winning a World Series and the Cy Young, that was on my short list. Now to represent the U.S. on that stage, this is a dream come true."
With those words, the Rays right-hander confirmed to MLB.com that he's accepted an invitation to pitch for Team USA this March (2017).
2017: Archer was chosen to represent the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
Even though Chris pitches for a team on the other side of the country, he may have made a few fans in Seattle. The Tampa Bay pitcher spoke to Seattle's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) league at the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club in the morning before the Rays opened a three-game series against the Mariners.
"Visiting RBI is something I like to do in every city," Archer told the gathering. "It gives me a platform to reach out and allow kids in your position to meet a Major League baseball player."
Archer started his visit by introducing himself and stressing the importance of academics and education before shifting to a question-and-answer format. He fielded questions ranging from his hardest out (it's recently retired David Ortiz) to how he's built his velocity over the years (lower body and core strengthening exercises).
Being in the presence of the Rays ace was an enriching experiencing for Jack Lui, 17. "I'm very grateful to hear him to talk to us," Lui said. "You don't have to be really good to make it at that level, you just have to be smart and try hard and just be thankful for what you've got. It's just great to hear from someone at that level that academics are important."
For 10-year-old Davonn Abaga, learning about Archer's unique upbringing and his development as a pitcher was enlightening -- he was adopted at an early age and didn't pitch full-time until he was 16. "I liked hearing about how he grew up in life," Abaga said. "[I like] how his mentor helped with him and got him into pitching."
Julien Pollard, the program director for Seattle RBI Baseball, was thankful Archer took the time to meet with the kids. "This is particularly special because he's a visiting player coming from out of town and he reached out and said, 'Hey, I'm in town for the weekend, can I come and talk to these guys?'" he said.
"For me, that's really cool because it's someone that's new to our kids and our community. Someone they're aren't really familiar with. Obviously, he has a great story and a great impact on what he is doing." (Horton - mlb.com - 6/2/17)
June 2006: The Indians chose Archer in the 5th round, out of Clayton High School in North Carolina. On July 9, he signed with scout Bob Mayer for a bonus of $161,000.
- December 31, 2008: The Cubs sent INF Mark DeRosa to the Indians, acquiring Archer, RHP Jeff Stevens, and LHP John Gaub.
January 9, 2011: The Rays sent P Matt Garza, OF Fernando Perez, and LHP Zach Rosscup to the Cubs; acquiring Archer, outfielder Brandon Guyer, shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, catcher Robinson Chirinos, and outfielder Sam Fuld.
- April 2, 2014: Archer and the Rays agreed on a six-year contract extension with two club option years.
The deal is worth $25.5 million guaranteed. The two option years will pay Archer about $9 million and $11 million, with the total contract maxing out at $43.75 million for all eight seasons.