So I've never done this before but I wanted to share my experience at the game today. I hope this post is in the right place. If it's not, I apologize. Now please don't give up on my story because I'm dragging out an introduction. My bad.
As I've gotten older I've lost the desire to get autographs before baseball games. This weekend, however, I visited the Oakland Coliseum with my nephews and niece. My nephews are huge fans. One is six years old and one is almost three. We came to the game early and even though the team wasn't out taking batting practice, the pitchers still came out to play catch. I went down to the field level with my nephews as they waited patiently for Felix, politely accepting autographs from Tom Wilhelmsen and Anthony Vasquez. Finally Felix made it over to us first as my six year old nephew was by far the loudest one yelling for him.
As he signed the the first ball he started interacting with my nephews. The first thing my nephew said was, "Felix, I'm going to be Larry Bernandez for Halloween!" Felix responded with a smile, "Really? Me too!" Then he signed my two year old nephew's Felix t-shirt (and ball per his innocent request). The way he interacted was completely different from any other player I've ever seen. He made eye contact, he initiated conversation. My niece, very shy and probably slightly blinded by his huge earrings, looked up at him and simply said, "Hi..." I expected him to leave her alone but instead he smiled and said, "Hey, why so serious?!" After this short period of time, my niece came away very excited that he talked to her and my nephews got to high five their idol as he walked away.
I know this isn't the most amazing story and I know I'm the worst story teller. I realize this. But I just wanted to do my part to illustrate why Felix is so great. Yeah, he's a dominant, Cy Young caliber pitcher, but he's also a guy who takes the time to interact with a couple of his biggest fans. It's really amazing considering the thousands of people he signs autographs for every day of the season. It would be hard to be that friendly with so many people. I'm sure he can't give that kind of attention to everyone but it's that attitude that will never get old. Felix Hernandez is a lot of things: a machine, a beast, an All-star. But today, for my nephews and niece he was a human being.