The idea of the modern athlete being all about the money and not the fans has begun to taint sports and especially baseball. The perception of the athlete playing for himself and not the fan is the discussion many sports talk shows have been having for years. Is it about the fans or about the player? I think there can be a common ground….respect their time and space and remember they are people too….and for the athlete remember who helps pay those huge salaries the Major League teams are shelling out.
So many times we hear the negative end of this argument, well here are some positive stories from Mesa on Thursday…. As much as the adults fuel the game with money, time and…. Websites, let’s not forget this is a kid’s game played by adults and the game should be about the kids. Where would we all be had we not started following baseball at the age of 6 or 7? Here are a few stories I witnessed first hand.
Matt Murton had just finished practice and warm-ups before the game on Thursday. He came running in from the field and was visibly hot and tired. He was heading for the dugout and people were trying to get him to autograph whatever they were holding. Murton at first said he would “get everyone later” and then a kid spoke up and said “please”. Murton stopped going down those stairs, went to the kid, signed what he had and spent the next ten minutes doing the same for everyone there. Remember, this is a guy who is basically a rookie.
Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett were warming up before the game in the right field bullpen. Barrett as we have all figured out by now is one hell-uv-a human being. A man named Greg was standing there with his almost one-year-old son and got Barrett’s attention. Greg asked Barrett for the baseball that he and Zambrano were warming up with when they were done. Greg told Barrett this was his son’s first baseball game and I overheard he was born last year around Opening Day. Sometime went by and Zambrano and Barrett finished their warm-ups and Zambrano started to leave with the ball. Barrett went and got the ball and gave it to Greg and his son Aiden. I have included a picture of the new Cubs fan and his family. “Sorry kid, they’ll break your heart!!”
Derrek Lee had just finished his game and post-game running in the outfield. The new face of the Cubs stopped and had kids toss down what they wanted autographed and one point almost got hit in the head by a baseball (two kids threw one at the same time). Did he have to do that? No. He gave up his time for the kids.
Shawon Dunston was leaving the park and walking down the autograph line where the players stop and sign autographs. Most of the coaches do not stop, but he did. There were several fans thrilled to get a chance to get Dunston’s autograph. One young female fan that could not have been more than 20 years old, got him to sign her jersey and told him she had been a fan since the 4th grade and then she turned to the rest of her family, they all screamed and Dunston said, “Maybe I should play baseball again.” It was a very cool thing to see from a fan’s perspective as well as a player. Dunston had also taken time with me earlier in the day….once a Cub always a Cub….right?
At the end of the day, I was chatting with a man that had the pleasure of meeting Felix Pie. He brought a picture of himself and Pie all the way from Chicago so he could have it signed. At the end of the day, he spotted Pie outside the locker room and asked him to autograph it and Pie came over and did just that.
As we all become focused on the season and where the Cubs are in the standings we should remember why we are baseball fans and Cubs fans. Was it always about wins and loses? Let’s remember going to Wrigley for the first time, let’s remember our first trip to Spring Training and let’s remember discussing our beloved Cubbies with our dad.
How many of these stories never make it to print or to the airwaves? We as a society have become so negative it is easier to point out what athletes and organizations are doing wrong than to share what they are doing right.
I hope this helps….