Monday, February 11, 2013

By David Saltzer, Senior Writer --

Baseball and autographs: the two go hand in hand. There’s something about being a kid, meeting a real player, and getting his autograph that is part of the national culture. It’s one of the things that all kids do, and it’s part of what makes baseball great.

Last Saturday was the “Field Day” for my son’s Little League team. This was my first experience with Little League, so I’m learning as I go. As a dad, I couldn’t be more proud of my son or glad to be a part of Little League. It’s a good organization, and watching my son’s baseball skills grow has been a pure joy.

“Field Day,” though, wasn’t a walk in the park. Little League survives on parents donating their time, sweat and resources. “Field Day” meant moms and dads donating thousands of hours to overhaul and restore the baseball fields into playable condition. My job was to rehab one of the Single-A bullpens, building up the mound, home plate, removing the weeds, and getting it into usable condition. By the end, my arms were sore.

There was one person there who didn’t have to be there who nevertheless still was: Mark Trumbo. He came out to sign autographs and meet the kids. He spent over an hour signing hundreds of baseballs, gloves, hats, shirts and everything else you could imagine.

I tried to imagine why Mark would be there. I could think of plenty of arguments against it, mostly centered around being his last weekend of freedom—in one week he’d be off to Spring Training and another 8 months of baseball. As far as I knew Mark didn’t grow up playing on those fields, so, I doubted that he had a personal connection to the area.  Sure, he might have been doing it as a favor to someone or as part of a sponsor’s promotion, but, I got the impression that he was there for another reason—inspiring the next generation of players.

When my son was very little, I got him “Elmo ‘n Daddy” a book about Elmo and his dad going to baseball game. In the story, a player, Lanky Hank, hits an unusual homerun to win the game for his team. One night, as I was reading that book to my son, we had the Angels game on in the background. Mark Trumbo hit a homerun to give the Angels the lead. From that point on, Mark Trumbo has been the hero to my son, like Lanky Hank was in the story.

As my son and I waited in line to meet Trumbo, my son got nervous. He had never asked a person for an autograph and wasn’t sure what to do. He was a little flustered and started to squirm (like most 6-year olds do). He tightly gripped the new baseball I bought him to get the autograph. It was funny to watch him getting awe struck; He started asking me all sorts of questions like “Does he have a pen to sign the ball?”, “ What if it runs out?” and “How does he know where to sign it?” I answered all of his questions as best I could, and enjoyed the moment.

Finally, we got up to meet Mark. He was polite and cordial. He asked if we were all heading out to Spring Training for the AngelsWin Fanfest again, and I told him all about our plans for March 16th. He signed my son’s baseball and took a photo with him. My son was thrilled!

When we got him, my son put his first autograph in a display case I bought him to preserve it forever. He ran into the house and showed it to his brothers and his mom and then placed it in a prominent spot in his room—one where he could see it from his bed. That night, for old time’s sake, I read “Elmo ‘n Daddy” again to him and my son said that meeting Mark Trumbo was the coolest!

Thank you Mark Trumbo for making my son’s day.
Love to hear what you think!

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