Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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By David Kellams - AngelsWin.com Contributor

So I'm sitting in the Denver airport late this morning waiting for my delayed connection to God-awful-Orlando. I just finished reading the on-line article in today's Register about Tim Salmon and the satisfaction he feels for being a "lifer"...

It gets me to thinking about guys like Gwynn, Mattingly, Puckett and Ripken Jr... I swear to God - I'm thinking about what great ambassadors these guys are for their franchise and I'm shutting down my computer because my flight was finally about to board. I close my laptop and look up and Ripken is standing right in front of me...

It was a surreal moment... I seriously thought I was dreaming for about 90 seconds...

Now, I'm not an intrusive guy... Probably because I don't like crowds and I hate small talk... But I do love watching people's reactions (the artist in me, I suppose), so I'm checking out everyone else... and it takes a while... A few dudes do a double take... they're not sure and their balls aren't quite big enough - yet...

So here's Ripken, at 6-4 and a solid 230, decked out in black UnderArmor gear with "CER" embroidered luggage and those unmistakeble eyes. And he's just standing there - that's when I realize we're on the same flight!

So some late twenties kid finally bellies up to him about five minutes before we're cleared to board (thankfully for Cal). And the deluge begins... the kid talks to him for about three minutes and then a number of people pile on... Then Ripken is saved by the announcement to board - but he was amazingly gracious and shook everyone's hand, posed for pictures, signed whatever was put in front of him - he was great about it - I couldn't do that...

So I board the plane... and guess who is sitting across the isle - hahaha... But I still didn't say a word - for the whole 3 1/2 hr flight...

Then we land and we're exiting the plane... I thought about breaking down and saying something to him, but he had his hands full with his bags and a couple of personal items and he had to grab a chair in the terminal to finish getting his stuff together, so I kept walking...

Well I get about 50 yards from the gate and I look over - he caught back up to me... it was just me and him, so I broke down and said "it was a pleasure watching you all those years - you were one of the greats". He smiled, we shook hands and I told him about how I was reading that Tim Salmon article and how Tim had expressed such pride in being a "lifer" and how that article made me think of him and Gwynn, Puckett and Mattingly... He seemed to genuinely smile...

And HE continued the conversation! As we're waiting for the airport tram he says: "you know Tim and I share the same birthday"... I had no idea (maybe that's why he was smiling). He went on to tell me about how for so many years it seemed as though the O's and Angels were playing in a series during thier b-day (August 24 - wow! That's Adenart's B-day too!) - and the two of them use to exchange birthday wishes...

Then we board the tram and he asks me: "how long did Tim play for you guys?" I answered I thought it was 15 years, off the top of my head - I answered '92-'06... We exited the tram and parted ways...

What a great memory - and given the spirit in which I recalled Cal earlier that day, it was so pleasant to have that image validated... What a great ambassador... Just like Salmon reminds me, every time I've met him. We were so lucky and privileged to experience "Mr. Angel"... I'm sure the O's feel the same about Cal...
Love to hear what you think!

Listen to "A Fish Like This" Tribute song to Mike Trout's Greatness

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