Posts Tagged ‘New York Yankees’

(Editor’s note: I received a lot of feedback from this column. From Minnesota to Arizona to Kansas, people told me of ways they would have handled the situation and of their desire to do something good. As a secondary note, I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything since January.)

Christian Lopez is my hero. And he should be for anyone who craves the purity of sport or just the merits of doing the right thing.

If you don’t know who Lopez is, he is the 23-year-old cell phone salesman who wound up with Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit in his hands Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

There’s nothing special about that; it’s what he did with the ball that is. He gave it to Derek Jeter.

Just like that.

No strings attached.

It’s been estimated the ball holds a cash value of $100,000 to $250,000. Most people would have held the ball for ransom — cash, signed memorabilia, a kiss on the cheek from Jeter’s girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, or whatever it is that floats their boat.

Not Lopez.

During an in-game interview, Lopez revealed he asked for nothing. Lopez’s gesture touched the Steinbrenner family that they gave Lopez four tickets in the priciest seats for every remaining home game through the postseason.

He told reporters in what had to be a surreal post-game press conference that the ball — and the moment — belonged to Jeter.

Here is a 23-year-old kid, a year out of college who didn’t let greed blind him. He had no machinations of what any proposed bounty could do for him. Rather, he saw the situation for what it was.

Meanwhile, on sports talk radio Lopez was shredded by callers because he didn’t maximize the potential of the situation. To that I disagree. Lopez unknowingly took a stand. His good deed was paid forward.

Too often it’s all about me-me-me, or how my kid is the next great thing. Lost in the shuffle are the Christian Lopezes of the world.

If a stadium with more than 48,000 fans, and those who hear this story, learn to act selflessly when the world tells you otherwise, we’ll all be better.

What we should learn from Lopez doesn’t just apply to sports, but in life. Do some good and maybe some good will come back to you.

Fittingly, after Jeter, the second-largest ovation of the day was saved for Lopez.


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Yankees draft pick Cito Culver overcame tragedy to reach professional baseball. (Photo courtesy ESPN)

NORWICH, Conn. — It wouldn’t be a stretch to believe Chris “Cito” Culver would fit in among the dozens of players depicted in the movie “Field of Dreams.”

Polite and smiling, Culver can’t believe he is living out his dream of playing professional baseball. In town this weekend with the Staten Island Yankees, Culver is a modern day Moonlight Graham.

It was so important for him to begin his career that he signed his first contract days after being drafted, a far cry from many of his peers.

There’s a certain warmth that he draws from the diamond, but when the topic changes from the game to what his family experienced two years ago, a sadness permeates his eyes.

Looking down for a second, Culver looks forward as he joins his teammates in their pre-game warm-ups and says, “It’s what keeps me going.”

Life hasn’t always been roses for New York’s first-round selection in June’s draft.

In March 2008, he woke up to find his father, Christopher, Sr., attempting to burn down the family home with him and his estranged wife inside. The house burned down but Cito, his two younger sisters and mother made it out alive. His father pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary, third-degree arson and first-degree criminal contempt, and is now serving a maximum nine-year sentence.

Fittingly, Culver says the biggest thing he’s learned over the first 42 games of his career is remaining positive.

“When you play every day, you’re going to have your good days and bad days, and you just have to learn to life with it, how to cope,” Culver said. “That’s something that’s big in this game because you’re not going to have a good day every day.”

When he’s on the field, however, the pain goes away.

Just a few days shy of his 18th birthday, Culver is as an unassuming baseball star in the making.

On the fourth pitch he sees in the batting cage, Culver slammed the offering high against the right field wall. There are no oohs and ahhs. Even with Yankees officials in attendance to watch their investment’s every move, Culver carries himself with the innocence of a child blissfully ignorant of the expectations placed at his feet.

From the moment the Yankees selected him, the switch-hitting shortstop has been anointed Derek Jeter’s heir apparent. The Yankees, he said, protect him from the pressure.

Growing up a Yankees fan in Rochester, N.Y., Culver even sounds like Jeter, his idol.

“It was really the highlight,” he said of being drafted by New York. “I’ve always wanted to be playing for the Yankees. It’s pretty much a dream come true for me.”

Staten Island’s hitting coach Ty Hawkins said Culver is still growing into the game.

“That’s one of the things, in the limited time of seeing him — his personality; he just seems like he really enjoys being here,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t feel like he has to live up to any expectations. He just goes out and do what he can.”

Playing just his second game since being promoted to New York’s short-season team in Staten Island, N.Y., Culver hasn’t come down from the cloud he’s been on since June’s draft.

“It still doesn’t (seem real),” Culver said. “It still hasn’t sunk in. I just go out here playing every day. It’s really lost of fun.”

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