We could all learn from one little league team
When I was young, I got to meet Minnesota Twins' pitcher Brad Radke. It was on my 10th birthday during a game he pitched. I was always a little chatter box when I was younger, and, coincidentally, Radke's parents were sitting a row or two in fron...
When I was young, I got to meet Minnesota Twins' pitcher Brad Radke.
It was on my 10th birthday during a game he pitched. I was always a little chatter box when I was younger, and, coincidentally, Radke's parents were sitting a row or two in front of me during the game.
While talking to them, they offered to introduce me to him outside the Dome. At that time, it was the best birthday ever.
My eyes were bright as stars for those five minutes I stood next to the Twins' long-time ace.
It's a story I'll never forget.
I bet there are tons of stories of I met so-and-so when I was younger ... None, though, will top this one.
For about 500 little leaguers in Washington, they have a story -- and something to always laugh about -- for life.
Washington Nationals' starting outfielder Elijah Dukes met with 54 little league baseball teams Saturday, signing autographs, taking photos and giving a speech about playing baseball for fun and working hard at the little league's Opening Day event.
The meet-and-greet was before the Nationals' Saturday day game, and after signing autographs for all 500-plus kids, he gave his quick speech and sprinted to his car. Because the event ran a littler longer than planned, he knew he was going to be late.
Dukes arrived to the ball field five minutes tardy. In doing so, he received a $500 fine and was benched for one game. He was also warned by the team's manager Manny Acta and general manager Mike Rizzo that if he was late again, he would be optioned to the club's Triple-A affiliate.
The day after the Nationals lost 9-6 to the Florida Marlins, the little league group saw the fine and the benching in the newspaper.
After hearing about the actions the team's management took, the league took its own action.
League parents and organizers e-mailed and notified each other and decided they would raise the money for Dukes' fine.
"The point is, this guy gave back to our community, and now he's in a hard spot. We need to help him," said Jim Mraz, president of the Great Falls Little League, to the Washington Post. "It's not a question of whether this guy can afford the 500 bucks. We're just trying to send a message to our kids: He was here for us. Now we've got to be there for him."
Acta has been bombarded with questions about the subject all week. But he's responded by saying he encourages all of his players to be fan-friendly, but reminds the ill-informed that Dukes was not at a team-sanctioned event, and if a meet-and-greet was set up by the team, it wouldn't have been done before a day game.
Usually, little leaguers are raising money for new jerseys or bats and equipment, but never before has a group of kids stepped up for a major leaguer such as Dukes. And, in doing so, I applaud their work.
Dukes, who is tabbed to make $415,500 this year, can easily pay the fine, which will be donated to a foundation called "Clubhouse Kids." But the idea that this group of kids is sending him the ultimate "thank you" and a great appreciation shows the gratitude the kids had.
By the end of the week the kids will try to raise at least $501 -- the extra dollar will cover any administrative expenses -- and any additional money will be donated to another little league in Dukes' name.
Imagine in about 10 years, when these 12-year-old kids are my age, and they can tell the story about meeting Elijah Dukes during a little league event and then being able to say, "I helped pay his fine."
What a great story.