Column: Line Drives — Athletes’ gestures admired

[This is my column in The Commercial Review from Thursday.]

In a time of me-first attitudes among professional athletes, it’s nice to see some people still care about their fans.

For example, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson often tweeted a location and invited the first x-number of fans who showed up to have lunch or dinner on him.

The gesture was usually followed by a tweet including a picture of him with the group or a photo of the bill, which often times was well into four figures.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald performed similar acts of kindness as well, and former Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cribbs held contests on his Twitter account and would send cash to the winners.

Cribbs even selected a former roommate of mine as a winner.

And Johnson went as far as matching the fines he received from the NFL in a donation to charity.

And what happened at Great American Ballpark on Saturday continues to show there are still athletes that put others before themselves.

Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis and his wife, Sarah, caught wind of the tragic story of Dylan Williams, the 8-year-old boy from Union City who was killed July 17, a day after he was hit in the neck by a ball during baseball practice.

The Ellis’s youngest daughter shares the same name as Williams, and upon hearing the news of his death, the couple felt they needed to reach out.

So with the help of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, and Rawlings — a baseball equipment company — a charter bus was arranged for Dylan Williams’ parents, teammates and family members to attend Saturday’s game between the Reds and Dodgers.

In addition to the Ellises treating the group from Union City to a fun time at the game, players, including Dodgers pitcher and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, catcher A.J. Ellis and Reds outfielder Chris Heisey, greeted them on the field. Indiana native and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly greeted the Williams contingent as well.

Rawlings also donated helmets to the Union City baseball league to raise awareness for the Dylan Williams Always an All-Star Foundation, a group that supports organ donation, field safety for kids and the importance of having automatic external defibrillators at ball fields.

At the time of the tragedy, South Side Baseball Diamonds in Union City did not have an AED.

The park, which has been renamed the Dylan Williams Memorial park, now has an AED readily available.

September usually means playoff races heat up in the MLB, and the Dodgers and Reds are among contention in their respective divisions. The two teams could have easily let the news of Williams’ passing go by the wayside.

But they didn’t.

Mark Ellis and his wife made sure not to deprive the child’s family and friends of the one thing that reminded them of their son or teammate; baseball.

It was an admirable, unselfish gesture, for sure.


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