By Ray Schulte, SchulteSports.com
On Friday, June 26 I flew down to Houston, Texas to attend the TRISTAR Productions’ Collectors Show, which is held annually at the George Brown Convention Center. In addition to the many memorabilia, trading card and collectible dealers, TRISTAR hosted more than 30 past and present baseball and football greats who signed autographs for the public.
I sat with newly-inducted baseball Hall of Famer Jim Rice while he signed for the public. My assignment was simple: make sure Rice was comfortable, take the signature tickets and do whatever I could to make the experience a positive one. It was amazing how many fans told him his induction was long overdue. Rice was great taking photos and interacting with everyone who approached his table.
Sunday morning, I was invited to have breakfast with a small group of friends at the Hilton hotel lobby restaurant. I entered the restaurant and noticed the great Hall of Famer Frank Robinson was one of the guests at my group's table.
As the waiter was taking our orders, I noticed a group of approximately 15 Little Leaguers in the corner of the restaurant dressed in their Chicago Cubs uniforms. It appeared their coach was congratulating them on having a great season and each player eventually got up to receive a special award from the coach. The players' dads surrounded the tables taking pictures of their sons. Robinson had his back to the group but he noticed the kids walking past our table and became curious as to what was going on in the corner.
Not even halfway through his breakfast, Robinson excused himself from the table and the next thing we knew, he was standing behind the dads, listening to the coach’s speech to the Little Leaguers. When the coach was finished, Robinson stepped in, introduced himself to the coach and asked if he could say a few words to the players. The coach was in shock and after stuttering a few words said, "Absolutely! Kids, this is Frank Robinson, one of the greatest players ever to play the game."
Robinson’s identity as a Hall of Fame player didn’t immediately register with the 9-10 year olds. However, their fathers became so excited that many of the kids knew this was a very special moment. You could tell there was a bonding between each dad and son.
It's amazing to think about how Robinson's small gesture made a lifelong impression on some young Houston Little Leaguers. What if more athletes and role models made similar gestures? For those of us who work within or are associated with the collectibles industry, it is extremely gratifying to know that guys like Frank Robinson appreciate what it means to create a memory for a lifetime, especially with kids.
Posted July 15, 2009