A few weeks ago I got to live out a dream and go to Spring Training as a player. It was Los Angeles Dodgers Adult Baseball Camp and a chance to spend a week at the Dodgers’ longtime spring training home in Vero Beach, Florida, eating, sleeping, living and breathing Dodgers baseball with retired pros and Dodger heroes as the coaches and instructors. As a lifelong Dodgers fan, a chance to rub elbows with the stars I grew up with and the legends of the past was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
But what made it even more memorable and extraordinary was the special guest who made a surprise appearance at camp for a few hours.
You may not be a Dodgers fan; you may not be a baseball fan. Yet I would expect that more than 90% of you out there have heard of this man, perhaps the greatest Dodgers player of all time. His name is Sandy Koufax. A chance to meet Sandy Koufax and shake his hand or get an autograph is something fans dream about. In many people’s eyes, there is no greater autograph to get or person to meet than Sandy Koufax.
I want to share with you a story I heard from another camper named Stan. Stan, had brought with him to camp a picture of Sandy Koufax with a young boy taken sometime in the early 1960s. It was a color picture, faded a little by time, yellowing at the edges. When I first saw the picture, I remarked that it looked like it was taken at a Bar Mitzvah. Well, the little boy in the picture was Stan and it had been taken at the Bar Mitzvah of a friend of his. Stan kept the picture framed in his office and had taken it out of its frame and brought it with him just in case Sandy Koufax made an appearance at camp.
As you may or may not know, Koufax was always very private and kept out of the limelight as much as possible and, since his retirement, has maintained this level of anonymity. He doesn’t make many public appearances, is very quiet with respect to interviews, and leads an incredibly low-key and ordinary life. Certainly not the sort of life you would expect from perhaps the greatest Dodger of all time. But this is how he has chosen to live and that is simply the way things are.
So you can imagine the excitement and exhilaration when the rumor broke out through the clubhouse that Sandy Koufax was in the building. Grown men, well into their 50s, 60s and 70s, giggling and laughing like teenagers—THE Sandy Koufax had made an appearance. Stan already had his picture out ready to go…
Until the rumor spread like wildfire that Koufax would not sign any autographs…
Can you imagine the despair in the clubhouse? You have to understand that there were about 100 campers in attendance and each one of them bleeds Dodger Blue. These are not fair-weather fans or occasional followers of the team. These are people who live for the Dodgers… and they had just been told that their number one hero, the greatest of them all, had said no, that he would not sign any autographs, that he had only come to the camp to visit with one of the coaches who was a close friend of his. Can you imagine getting your hopes up so high, only to have them dashed in an instant?
Obviously, you can understand, I was pretty upset. How could someone that important to all of us simply shun us and act as if we didn’t matter? Of course, I can see it from his side. He wants to be private, he doesn’t want to be hounded by giddy and childish fanatics, having to answer the same questions over and over again and sign his name a hundred times. I understand that. But what bothered me was that his refusal to sign indicated to me that he didn’t appreciate how important he was to all of those campers. Which led me to this:
Don’t underestimate how important you are to other people.
You may not be a star athlete or a Hollywood star or a famous celeb-utante, but that doesn’t mean that people aren’t enamored with you or want to be with you or talk to you or spend time with you. You are still important to people; in fact, you may be more important than the athlete or the entertainer or the celebrity because you directly impact the lives of those around you. Why do I say this? Look around. Look at your family, your young children. I guarantee you that my daughter doesn’t understand the significance of a Sandy Koufax, but she does understand the significance of me.
Well, to close the loop on the story. Either the story of his not signing was fabricated or Koufax changed his mind, but Stan got his picture signed, and Koufax made 100 grown men as excited as kids.
Don’t underestimate how important you are to other people especially when you may be feeling as if nothing is going right. You have the ability to make someone’s day just by saying hello or giving them a few minutes of your time. You may not even know it…
Have a great one.