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Athletes: It Doesn't Take Much

by Nick Vitrano

When I was a kid, bringing one's glove to a Milwaukee Brewers game at County Stadium was a must. It wasn't so much the prospect of snagging a ball - it had everything to do with the autograph. Securing an autograph was all but a sure thing. It was so cool. With one out remaining in the final inning, the children began their descent to the rail. Both the Brewers players and the visitors were pretty cool about walking the railing and signing before heading into the dugout. I still have a glove loaded with team signatures. Too bad they're all from some of the team's darkest days.

Anyway, on one incredible day in 1989, my friend Nick Haig and I made our way down to the field to see if we could score some ink from members of the visiting Detroit Tigers. I was really hoping for Chet Lemon, but as I was standing there, designated hitter Keith Moreland came over with a splintered, heavily pine-tarred bat in hand. He tapped the handle on the rail and extended it in my direction. Stunned at what was transpiring, I stood, I'm sure open mouthed, in still silence. Eventually I took the bat, but not without prompting from Moreland who (from behind a smile) said, "Hey if you don't want it, I'm pretty sure one of these other kids would take it."

It was the simplest of gestures, but Moreland instantly became one of my favorite non-Brewers (and people). I think athletes sometimes lose perspective on how great their influence can be on the life of a youngster. It doesn't take much. It was good to see that isn't lost on Jordin Tootoo of the Detroit Red Wings: