On Friday, June 26th I flew down to Houston, Texas to attend the Tri-Star Productions Collectors Show which is held annually at the George Brown Convention Center. In addition to the many memorabilia, trading card and collectible dealers, Tri Star presented over thirty (30) past and present baseball and football greats, who signed for the public.
While I was there I sat with newly inducted Baseball Hall of Famer, Jim Rice while he signed for the public. My assignment was simple - make sure Jim was comfortable, take the signature tickets and do whatever I could to make the fan’s experience a positive one. I can’t tell you how many fans told him his induction was long overdue. Jim was great taking photos and interacting with everyone who approached his table. The rest of my time during the weekend was spent talking with the athletes, agents and dealers out on the main floor.
Sunday morning I was invited to have breakfast with a small group of friends at the Hilton Hotel lobby restaurant. I had packed and brought my luggage downstairs because I was going to head to the airport right after breakfast. I entered the restaurant and noticed the great Hall of Famer; Frank Robinson was one of the guests at my groups table. I have met Frank several times at other events but this would be the first time I had the opportunity to sit and listen to him speak and possibly ask him a question or two.
As the waiter was talking our orders I noticed a group of approximately fifteen - 9-10 year old 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 player’s dads surrounded the grouped tables taking pictures of their sons. Frank 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.
I noticed Frank was not even half way through his breakfast and he excused himself from the table without even a word. The next thing we knew Frank was standing behind the dad’s listening to the coach’s speech to the Little Leaguers. When the coach was finished, Frank 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. Frank humbly introduced himself and congratulated the players on their season and said to remember that you play for fun and don’t be afraid to lose!
You could tell that Frank 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 that this was a very special moment. By this time I was right behind the dads taking pictures of this great spontaneous moment. You could tell there was a bonding between each dad and son. The coach and the dads asked if Frank would take a picture with the team and he graciously agreed. I think Frank was just as excited as the players to be asked.
While Frank was saying goodbye and wishing the team all the best I went back to our breakfast table and couldn’t stop thinking about what a lifelong impression Frank just made on some young Houston Little Leaguers. What if more athletes and role models made similar gestures? I couldn’t help thinking about the dad’s eventually purchasing their son’s a Frank Robinson signed baseball, photo or jersey to preserve that memory. This certainly wasn’t Frank’s motive but for us who work within or 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!