Why I Admire Professional Athletes


I’m sure you are all sick and tired of hearing and reading negative reports about athletes in trouble with the law, accused of abuse, whining about their salaries, etc. I am too. But I believe that those athletes represent the minority and if we treated them like we tell our children to treat bullies, that is to ignore them, the problems would lessen.

I had the great experience Saturday of witnessing first hand the incredible community spirit of some very special athletes whom I believe represent the majority. We held a Celebrity Pitcher Day at the Miracle League of San Diego, a safe place where children with mental and physical challenges play organized baseball on a special surface designed to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and the sight impaired.

On hand representing the San Diego Padres were pitcher Heath Bell, Manager Bud Black, outfielders Will Venable and Tony Gwynn, Jr., and former players Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta and Mark Sweeney. Also on-hand was pre-game and post-game on-air host John Weisbarth. Each of these players arrived early, stayed late, signed autographs and took photos with every person who asked with a giant smile on their face.

Most importantly, they pitched with enthusiasm and patience to players who don’t have the chance to play mainstream little league and are often left out. These professional athletes were interacting with our players, talking to them on the field between innings, giving tips, and making every single person feel as if she were the only one there. I’m not sure who had more fun out there, the pros or the Miracle Leaguers. Those of you who know Tony Gwynn, Jr. know he has a great smile. I actually couldn’t tell who had a bigger smile, Tony or our athletes and their families.

I think the media and the public need to recognize more of these selfless acts, where the players come on their own volition, during the off-season, on a Saturday, and bring their families to support wonderful causes like our Miracle League of San Diego. I know that our Padres in the Community represent the majority, not the minority, and I’m proud to be affiliated with such fine people and such a fine organization.

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About Dan Engel at NPPG

CEO of the Non-Profit Purchasing Group (www.nonprofitpurchasinggroup.org), co-founder and President of the Miracle League of San Diego (www.miracleleagueofsandiego.org), Vice-Chairman of the California Oncology Research Institute (www.corigroup.org)
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