Sports Envoy
Sports Envoy Program

Chris Henderson

Basketball

Served as envoy

  • 2019  –  China

Chris Henderson works as a Partnership Management Analyst for the NBA 2K League, focusing on League Marketing and Partnerships.

Alexander English

Basketball

Served as envoy

  • 2014  –  China
  • 2014  –  South Korea
  • 2015  –  Italy

Alex English was born January 5, 1954 in Columbia, South Carolina. English stayed true to his homegrown roots, starring at local Dreher High School before moving on to play collegiately at the University of South Carolina.

Following his career at South Carolina, English was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 23rd overall pick in the 1976 NBA Draft. During his time in Milwaukee, English learned the game as a backup as the team tried to rebuild following Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s departure. English was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 1978, where he began to show flashes of his scoring ability, averaging 16 points per game. Midway through the 1979-80 season, he was traded once more to the Denver Nuggets where he would solidify his reputation as a prolific scorer. From 1980-1990, his entire tenure with the Nuggets, English averaged 26 points per game, earned 8 All-Star bids, became a 3-time All-NBA Second Team selection, led the league in scoring in 1983 and became the franchises’ all-time leading scorer. To add to the list of impressive feats, English led the Nuggets in scoring in 55% of the games he played for Denver. Following this decade with the Nuggets, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks in 1990, where he would play for one season before finishing his NBA career.

After being away from the game for a few years, English got into coaching, spending one season each with the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks as an assistant coach prior to joining the Toronto Raptors organization. There, he would spend 2004 – 2011 as the Director of Player Development and as an assistant coach. In the summer of 2011, English finished with the Raptors and spent one season with the Sacramento Kings.

Tim Gebhart

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2008  –  China

Tim Gebhart graduated from the University of Hawaii, Hilo with a degree in education. For 8 years following college, he worked alongside MLB Hall of Fame Shortstop Cal Ripken Jr and 12 year MLB player Bill Ripken where he traveled the world teaching baseball “The Ripken Way”. Throughout his time in Baltimore, he was able to complete his masters degree in special education at Northcentral University.

In 2013, Gebhart was introduced to Sean Casey, the President and founder of the Miracle League of the South Hills. Gebhart helped him start Sean Casey’s Champions Camp during the summer to help raise money for the field and the playground located in Boyce Mayview Park. In 2016, Gebhart moved to Pittsburgh to become the executive director of the Miracle League of the South Hills and Casey’s Clubhouse.

Matt Backert

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2008  –  China

Matt Backert played baseball and soccer from 2002 to 2006 at Neumann University in Ashton, Pennsylvania. During this time, he earned various All-Conference and team honors in both sports. After graduating from Neumann, Backert spent seven years overseeing baseball operations for Ripken Baseball, including leading its instructional programs, such as camps and clinics. From 2007-2010, he served as a Baseball Coach Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, a position that led him around the world, including China and Nicaragua, to facilitate camps and coaching clinics to teach baseball to youth and coaches. From 2014 to 2017, Backert was the head baseball coach at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland. In 2018, Backert joined Community College of Baltimore County Essex Athletics as an Assistant Head Coach for the Knights. In late 2019, Community College of Baltimore County Dundalk Athletics announced Backert would become the Lions’ new head coach of their baseball team.

BJ Surhoff

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2007  –  China

After attending Rye High School, B.J. Surhoff was drafted by the New York Yankees in the fifth round of the 1982 MLB June Amateur Draft. In 1985, Surhoff was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the first round of the MLB June Amateur Draft. Surhoff’s MLB debut was with the Brewers the in 1987. In the positions of Left Field, Catcher, and Third Baseman, he played for the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, and Atlanta Braves. Surhoff retired in 2005 after a 19-season career. In 2007, Surhoff was elected to the Orioles Hall of Fame.

Billy Ripken

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2008  –  China

Billy Ripken grew up surrounded by baseball because of his father Cal Ripken Sr. who played and coached for the Baltimore Orioles. His father, his brother, and himself made baseball history when Ripken was picked by the Orioles in the 11th round of the 1982 MLB Draft. He played in MLB from 1987–1998 for the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers (1993–94, ’97), Cleveland Indians (1995), and Detroit Tigers (1998).

In 1990, Ripken had his most successful campaign offensively. He batted .291, the highest total of his career and a mark which would lead the Orioles in 1990. Ripken finished fifth among AL second basemen with a .987 fielding percentage and led AL hitters with 17 sacrifice hits. Billy committed a total of 11 errors, the fewest in major league history among second baseman-shortstop combinations. In 1992, Ripken hit what would be a career-high four home runs, batting .230 with 76 hits and 36 RBI in 111 games. He had a .993 fielding percentage.

Since his baseball career, Ripken has written several books on the development of young baseball players as well as novels that illustrate the difficulties of parenting and children’s lives as child athletes. In 2001, Bill and Cal Ripken, Jr. Co-Founded the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation as a tribute to their father’s devotion to teaching life skills and lessons through sports. Their foundation helps to build character and teach critical life lessons to at-risk young people living in America’s most distressed communities.

Adam Christ

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2008  –  China

Adam Christ’s baseball career began at Des Moines Area Community College where he was a two-time all-conference selection from 1998 to 2000. In 2000, Christ played shortstop at Iowa State shortly before being recruited by the Cyclones. Playing infielder at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Christ went on to earn his BS in Kinesiology in 2003 from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2008, Christ earned his MS in Athletic Administration from Minnesota State University, where he became Assistant Coach in 2009. After three years, Christ was promoted in 2012 to the position of Assistant Head Coach at the University, a position he remained in for four years. Since leaving Minnesota State in 2015, Christ has worked as the Assistant Coach at the University of Illinois.

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Baseball

Served as envoy

  • 2007  –  China
  • 2008  –  Nicaragua
  • 2011  –  Japan
  • 2018  –  Czech Republic

Cal Ripken Jr. is baseball’s all-time Iron Man. He was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the second round of the 1978 MLB draft, remaining with the team for 21 seasons in which during his time, was managed by his father and played alongside his brother Billy Ripken

His name appears in the record books repeatedly, most notably as one of only ten players in history to achieve 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. One of his position’s most offensively productive players, Ripken compiled 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, and 1,695 runs batted in during his career. Won two Gold Glove Awards for his defense and was a 19-time All-Star. In 1995, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s Major League record for consecutive games played (2,130) and in 1996 he surpassed Sachio Kinugasa’s streak of 2,215 straight games and voluntarily ended his streak on September 20, 1998 after playing 2,632 consecutive games.

On July 29, 2007 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Cal received the 4th highest percentage of votes in history, collecting the second highest vote total ever (98%) by the BBWAA.

In 2001, he and his family established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in memory of the family’s patriarch. The Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, using sports-themed programs to bring police officers, youth partners and underserved kids ages 9 to 14 together on a level playing field to learn invaluable life skills. In addition, the Ripken Foundation’s Youth Development Park Initiative creates clean, safe places for kids to play on multi-purpose, synthetic surface fields that promote healthy living in an outdoor recreational facility. Over the last nine years, the Ripken Foundation has created 88 completed parks across the country in 23 states, 17 of which are Adaptive Fields for children with special needs. In 2018, the Ripken Foundation impacted over 1.5 million kids nationwide through its Youth Development Park and mentoring programs.

Lia Neal

Swimming

Served as envoy

  • 2017  –  China
  • 2017  –  Hong Kong
  • 2017  –  Singapore

Lia Neal was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 13, 1995. She is of African-American and Chinese-American descent — Neal’s father, Rome, is African-American and her mother, Siu, is Chinese-American. Thanks to her mother, Neal is fluent in Cantonese. Neal began swimming at the age of 6 and two years later, she joined New York City’s Asphalt Green Swim Team and was soon awarded a Swim for the Future scholarship. The Swim for the Future scholarship was started in 2001 in memory of Asphalt Green masters swimmers Doug Irgang and Andrew Fisher who tragically died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. According to Asphalt Green’s website, the scholarship has allowed the New York City-based swim team to become the most diverse team in the United States.

As the second African-American female to make a US Olympic swim team, Lia is committed to bringing more diversity to the sport. She is part of USA Swimming’s Make a Splash initiative, inspiring kids to swim via Swim Brooklyn.

As one of the most coveted high school recruits, Neal chose to make the cross-country move to swim for Stanford University. Coach Greg Meehan dedicated the success the Stanford women’s team had starting in 2014, in part, to Lia deciding to give Stanford, and himself as a coach, a chance. It didn’t take long for Lia to make her mark as a cardinal. At the 2014 NCAA’s, Neal finished 10th in the 50 free, second in the 100 free, and ninth in the 200 free individually. She gained her first NCAA Champion status as a member of the winning 400 medley relay and 400 free relay, and finished third on the 800 free relay and ninth on the 200 medley relay.

Neal excelled as an age group swimmer, competing at the 2008 US Olympic Trials in the 100 free at

the age of 13. She had qualified for those Olympic Trials when she had broken the 11-12 national age-group record in the 100 free.

She debuted on the international scene in 2010 at the Junior Pan Pacific Championships in Maui, Hawaii. Neal won gold medals as part of the 400 free, 800 free, and 400 medley relays. She also took home a silver medal in 100 free and a bronze medal in the 50 free.

At the 2011 World Junior Championships in Lima, Peru, Neal was a gold medalist in the 100 free and a silver medalist in the 50 free. She also helped Team USA again to relay golds in the 4x100m and 4x200m free relays, and silver in the 4x100m medley relay.

Scout Bassett

Track & Field Paralympics

Served as envoy

  • 2018  –  China

One-time Paralympian (2016)
Paralympic Games Rio 2016, 5th (100m), 10th (long jump)
World Championship Experience
Most recent: 2019 – 8th (100m), 10th (long jump)
Years of Participation: 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019
Medals: 2 (2 bronze)
Bronze – 2017 (100m, long jump)

Personal: Bassett spent seven years in a government-run orphanage in Nanjing, China after she was abandoned on the side of a street following the loss of her right leg in a chemical fire as an infant. Given a makeshift prosthetic leg patched together from leather belts and masking tape, she never stepped outside of the orphanage, spending her days mopping floors, washing dishes and taking care for the younger children before being adopted by an American couple from Michigan in 1995. Still learning the English language, Bassett joined sports as a way to connect with her peers. She tried basketball, softball, golf and tennis before competitively racing in track & field and triathlons. At 14, she was introduced to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), who gave her a grant to fund her training while also allowing her to attend running clinics and mentor young amputees. She worked her way to qualify for her first U.S. Paralympic Team in 2016. Off the track, Bassett still spends her time as an athlete ambassador and motivational speaker…Daughter of Joe and Susan Bassett…Adopted with two other children from a Chinese orphanage at the age of seven…Her Chinese name was Zhu Fughi…Considers U.S. paratriathlete Sarah Reinertsen the most influential person in her career…Began running at the age of 14 after being introduced to prosthetist Stan Patterson who encouraged her to participate in her first Paralympic event…Returned to China for the first time since her adoption in 2011 for the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships.