An Unexpected Gift

My daughter Tiffany is an autograph magnet. During spring training, I bought her a baseball so that she could try to get some autographs. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. That kid was relentless in trying to have the entire team autograph her ball. During the season, she could be found lining the wall in left field or by the bullpen as she scoped out the players to see who was not yet immortalized on the ball. For the most part, she was very successful. As rookies were called up, she immediately went to work on them to try and get their signature. This is not so say she hounded them, she merely asked them politely to sign her ball. She took each opportunity to talk with the player about the season they were having, the chances for the team, and to learn a little about them. Instead of autographs, I realized she was collecting friendships. It was wonderful watching as the players took time out of their schedule to stop and see this cute 11 year old girl as she tried to talk baseball with them.

The ball is now completely covered and she has a story for every signature. She has everyone’s name on it. Well everyone but one. For 80 home games she has attempted to obtain Reggie Sanders autograph but has been unsuccessful. She had some close calls but he always had to go just before she could get his signature. It looked as if her quest would go unfulfilled and she had resigned herself to the fact that it was just not meant to be. But tonight, during the last home game Tiffany would be attending this regular season, she sat watching the game unfold. Soon, there was a member of the Diamondbacks staff standing in the aisle next to our seats asking if I was Jeff Summers and did I have some identification. Between pitches and keeping score, I dug my driver’s license out of my pocket and handed it to the woman. After verifying my identity, she handed me a Kleenex and walked off. Confused, I handed the Kleenex to Tiffany and went back to keeping score. Just then Tiffany screamed and reached over and hugged me. I stopped what I was doing and stared at her wondering what had gotten into her. In her hand was an autographed baseball from Reggie Sanders. It was a gift from an anonymous benefactor. A gift that is greatly appreciated and one that can never be repaid. At that moment, I was the best father in the world to my daughter and I wouldn’t trade that feeling for a World Series ring.

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