It was 2001, The Danny Almonte year, and I was at the Little League World Series with my family – BettyJane, Jess (age 12), Maverick (age 7), and Travis (Age 5). BettyJane was pregnant with my daughter Cassidy at the time.
To say it was crazy was an understatement.
We decided to attend on a last second whim.
We lucked out and got a hotel room (they had been sold out for months).
It happened to be the same hotel as the ABC commentators.
My family and I were sitting in the lobby of the hotel. It was early; we were the only ones there.
In walks a man who comes right up to us and says, “I just want you to know Brent Musburger has requested that you not ask for his autograph when he comes in and that he would appreciate if you just allowed him to have some space.
Now if anyone knows me, I am not the autograph seeking type. It is probably the last thing on earth I would ever do. But hey, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know this about me.
A few seconds later, in walks Brent Musburger donned in dark sunglasses and a stiff, straight head that made you feel like he was Medusa, and he didn’t want to look at you for fear it might kill someone, probably him.
He walks past us.
And when he is still in earshot of us, Maverick says,
“What a jerk”.
A few minutes go by and a bright yellow SUV pulls into the parking lot.
Out walks Tony Gwynn.
He enters the lobby, walks right up to us and says,
“Are you boys coming to my batting clinic today?”
I let him know that we got into town at the last second and we didn’t know of it.
He said, “You got to come.”
He gave us the time and place and went on to say that they gave him 2 hours for the clinic but he probably only needed 12 seconds. And then he chuckled, the Tony Gwynn chuckle.
Later that day, I took my family to Tony’s batting clinic.
And here is what he said.
He started out by saying,
“For those of you who are looking for 2 hours of hitting instruction, you are going to be greatly disappointed.
For those of you that came here to learn how to hit, I can sum it up in 12 seconds.
Ok… here it is:
Get the right pitch to hit and when you do, get your hands back and your leg down and get the sweet spot of your bat through the zone.
Hands back, leg down.
That’s all folks.
Now the smart people will get up and go enjoy your day.
Anyone interested in my confusing you anymore can stay.”
We got up and enjoyed the rest of our day.
A few years went by and one day I was watching a ball game on ESPN Classics.
Tony Gwynn was at the plate and Maverick spurts out, “Hands back, leg down,” as Tony rockets one between the shortstop and third baseman.
And then he says, “That a boy, Tony,” not even realizing that the game was a replay from a few years ago.
After a few minutes, I start flipping through the channels and I land on a college football game.
I say to Maverick, “Do you know who this announcer is?”
After filling him in that it was Brent Musburger he says,
“Turn the channel, he’s a jerk.
Put Tony back on.”
Isn’t it amazing how two people who each had less than a one-minute interaction with a child both made such an impact on him.
Be like Tony Gwynn.
A minute of your time will last a lifetime.
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