The Dodgers listen to Marty Lamb.
He scouted Walker Buehler as a high school righthander in Lexington, Ky., monitored him at Vanderbilt, recommended him. He told the Dodgers that Will Smith was jumping up the draft boards for a reason, and the Dodgers signed the catcher from the U. of Louisville, too. They drafted Matt Beaty, Luke Raley and Landon Knack, from Lamb’s reports.
All the scouts were sidelined this spring when the virus came, but Lamb had enough stuff on Louisville pitcher Bobby Miller. The Dodgers took him at the end of the first round.
The hiatus was an adjustment, but Lamb knew all along that life is more than radar guns and questionnaires. He learned about what his friend Ked Clarke was doing in Kentucky, a project called Refuge For Women.
Victims of sex trafficking come to the houses RFW is building or has built. They sober up, they clean up, they learn. In Kentucky they make candles, in a brand called Survivor Made.
“I went out and took a look at it, helped them out with some things around the house, mowed the yard,” Lamb said. “I realized it was something I should be involved with.”
Lamb is now on the RFW board. It operates facilities in Las Vegas, North Texas, Angleton, Tex., Kentucky and San Diego.
Dan DeSaegher runs the San Diego operation. A new home for survivors is opening in September. It is part of a nine-to-12 month process that takes the homeless, and the hopeless, and re-installs them into society.
“For the first couple of weeks we’re a recovery home,” DeSaegher said. “The traffickers actually don’t chase them down. The sad truth is that it’s easier for them to find a new girl.
“There’s so much psychological traffic, and a very difficult cycle to break: Poverty, chemical dependency, trauma, lack of opportunity, homelessness, the safety factor within. Eight out of 10 go back to the traffickers. But in our program so far, seven of 10 don’t go back to trafficking or chemical dependency. That’s crazy exciting news.”
RFW began in 2009. There have been 212 women that have made it through the three-phase program. “Some of them relapse seven times before they get there,” DeSeaegher said.
The first step is an emergency home. Victims are often referred to RFW from other agencies. They must be sober for a month. Their mental health has to be addressed.
Once they stabilize, they go to the second phase, in which six women stay in a house, with round-the-clock care, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. they learn social skills, financial tips, trust and collaboration. For 16-year-olds who flee a non-functioning home for the Darwinian streets, a sense of collaboration is like a Ph.D.
They also hold addiction meetings and slowly ease toward job placement, which is the third phrase.
“Financial intelligence and budgeting are critical,” DeSaegher said. “If you’re them, why would you save anything for tomorrow? I might be the first trustworthy man they’ve ever met. I’m high-fiving them on the patio. Really, what we’re doing is rebuilding from scratch.”
Covid-19, as always, brought its own problems. There were not many street transactions anyway, but now they dried up, and the industry went totally on-line, and the on-line vendors began giving away their product. RFW found it harder to find volunteers. Still, all the houses stayed open.
DeSaegher says San Diego’s sex-trafficking industry exceeds $110 million underground, and 80 percent of the victims are from north of the border. He is a former Qualcomm executive who says an associate formed a program that found vulnerable women.
“He was shocked,” DeSaegher said. “The FBI knows what’s going on. You can’t tell their parents. That just drives the girls further away.
“I used to brag about my staff, that they were heroes. They are, but the young women are the heroes, too. Through therapy, they’re able to face that the man they were with wasn’t a boyfriend. They face the demons. It’s a comeback story, just like sports.”
John Shelby, one of the prime movers of the Dodgers’ last World Series title in 1988, still lives in Kentucky. All three of his sons played for the U. of Kentucky, and John T., the oldest, is on the coaching staff.
“I got John to come out to see the facility one day,” Lamb said. “After that he told me I was going to see him there a lot more often, and his kids would be there, too.”
The website is Refugeforwomen.com, in case anybody needs to buy a candle, or light one.