by Jim Morris III
Last week a video of catcher emerged online of a Cubs catcher throwing to a fan during the rainout. Think about how much that boy loved that interaction with the player. It’s those little things that make sports great.
I remember going to Minor League or Major League Baseball games and meeting players occasionally. A few of them became huge names in baseball. One of them was Jim Thome (below photo) when he was playing in the minor leagues for my Dad’s Cleveland Indians.
The Canton-Akron Indians were playing the Hagerstown Suns. My Dad (my namesake), got Jim to come over and talk a little and Jim signed a baseball card of him I had. Jim would later go on to hitting over 600 home runs and has a statue outside Cleveland’s stadium
When I was young, in the early 80’s, Bob Feller came down to Indians spring training in Arizona quite often. My Dad briefly introduced me to him once at least. At the time, I didn’t think much of it because I was not as interested in baseball as I later would become.
Bob Feller is on a short list of the top all time pitchers in baseball. Rapid Robert once threw against a speeding motorcycle. The pitch is said to be 100 to 120mph.
Did I mention Bob missed almost 4 prime years for volunteering to serve in World War 2? He left the Navy with the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
In High School the Washington Bullets played the Shepherd Rams in a scrimmage in either 1992 or 1993. I met the team and got all their autographs. The only one that stuck out was their coach Wes Unseld. The Hall of Famer who played for them earlier in his career and won a championship in 1978 .
Last year in the news while the New England Patriots were in the playoffs a young fan with terminal cancer who had undergone multiple surgeries had a brain surgeon carve the Number 12 into his skull. This was a tribute to his favorite football player Tom Brady.
When news of this reached Tom Brady, he made a personalized video for the sick boy and invited him to a game and meet and greet. Tom Brady later won his 5th Super Bowl ring February 5th, 2017. Unfortunately, the boy passed on in February 14th of this year. It was touching to see this boy’s dream come true and know he saw his favorite player win another super bowl.
I think some of these athletes see the importance of reaching out to kids and fans and doing charity work not necessarily for themselves but as an ambassador to their sport. It also gives many athletes a sense of purpose and to give back in multiple ways. Roberto Clemente, for example, died in a plane wreck delivering aid on his way to Nicaragua.
was not only of course, a legendary baseball player but was widely known decades after he passed on as being a huge fan of doing things for kids. Whether it was visits to hospitals or giving out clothes to orphans. He may have been one of the first ambassadors to a sport so widely known.
George Herman Ruth, Jr. was raised in a boys home most of his youth in Baltimore Maryland. He is sports history’s most written about athlete. You can visit his museum in Baltimore and see his statue outside of Camden Yards. He’s just as much a part of Baltimore as he is New York or Boston.
Navy pilot in World War II (featured photo), should also come up in such a discussion with regards to having a soft spot for sick children and making them a priority in his life. Williams, whose nickname early on, was “The Kid”, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for them and was notorious for leaving large checks at various hospitals to erase the medical bills of parents.
Of Williams, the Jimmy Fund states:
“Ted Williams was a hero in the ballpark, on the battlefield, and in the hearts of millions of children suffering from cancer. Famous for his extraordinary batting record during his decades-long career with the Red Sox, Ted also displayed heroism as a fighter pilot in two wars, and his tireless efforts on behalf of the Jimmy Fund. Ted went everywhere to support the cause: American Legion banquets, temples and churches, Little League games, drive-in theaters, department stores for autograph sessions. Most memorably, he made countless visits to the bedsides of sick children at the Jimmy Fund Clinic.”
Kevin Durant, 6’9″ (‘Small Forward’ -compared to what?) of the Golden State Warriors, loves playing Basketball, where ever and whenever. So much so he has played pick-up games all over the place giving fans or street ballers a chance to play him. He has been known to tweet about looking for a pick-up game and showing up there to play. In 2013 a student at Oklahoma State invited him to his fraternity brothers game. KD showed up.
See it’s those little things that stick out to me. I am sure many others appreciate seeing these heartwarming and cool stories about these famous athletes. Athletes spending time playing sports with fans, talking with fans or doing charity work for their community. This is what makes sports great and keeps people interested beyond just watching them in a stadium or at home on TV.