By Ken Reed

A fairly common view of athletes today is that they are all greedy “me, me, me” human beings who are more interested in building their personal brands than in doing anything that positively impacts society.

Those athletes certainly exist, but I think, overall, that view is more about the mindset of some people looking at athletes in a jaundiced way than it is the reality of the situation. In this life, your beliefs determine the reality you will experience. You find what you look for.

In truth, there are a bunch of high character athletes who excel on and off the fields of play.

One of them, Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals just retired this week. Columnist Benjamin Hochman described Wainwright this way:

Wainwright is an iconic Cardinal. But not only because of his 2006 postseason heroics. And not only because of his longevity (he even pitched at old Busch!). And not only because of his history-making, be it an All-Star Game start or Cy Young votes earned or, now, his 200 wins. He is an iconic Cardinal because he epitomizes the best of what St. Louis loves about their favorite Cardinals. He’s got the humbleness of Stan Musial, the charitable heart of Albert Pujols, the mound mettle of (Bob) Gibson, the sense of humor of Bob Uecker, the faith of Matt Holliday, the celebrity of Ozzie Smith.

The 6-foot-7 starter is both down-to-earth and larger-than-life.

Baseball has many other high-character guys. For starters, check out each team’s Roberto Clemente Award nominees.

Sadly, we lost a couple of top-notch human beings in recent days with the passing of Baltimore Orioles legend Brooks Robinson and Boston Red Sox pitching great Tim Wakefield.

If there are people who didn’t like and respect Brooks Robinson and Tim Wakefield, and how they lived their lives, they are very hard to find.

Long-time baseball writer Thomas Boswell had this to say about Robinson in a recent tribute:

If there is indeed an Oriole Way that stretches back to the early 1960s and now manifests itself in a young Baltimore team with the best record in the American League, then that “way” is an unpretentious method of acting toward others, a way of giving back to the community, as much as a way of hitting the cutoff man.

Let us leave it at this — no position player has as many Gold Gloves as Robinson, who also had 2,848 hits and 1,357 RBI.

Yet hardly anyone in baseball mentions Robinson, the first-ballot Hall of Famer, before saying, in all caps, that the game had no better person.

We have too few compasses — for character — that are still set accurately. Every time we think of Brooks Robinson, remember: That’s true north.

Wakefield was revered in and around Boston for not only his accomplishments on the field but how he gave back to society in so many different ways.

“Tim Wakefield epitomized class, empathy, and devotion to his family, team, and community,” said Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey.

Among the many charitable endeavors Wakefield was involved with was Franciscan Children’s, which serves children and adolescents with complex medical conditions and mental healthchallenges, according to spokesperson, Eileen Curran.

Curran said the organization was heartbroken over the loss of Wakefield. The former pitcher regularly visited patients, brought children to Fenway Park, and helped raise money for mental health and adaptive sports programs.

“Our kids cheered Tim throughout his career and were known as ‘Wake’s Warriors.’ In 2009, we dedicated our athletic field to Tim and think of him every time we go out onto ‘Wake Field.’ He was our hero and will be greatly missed.”

Robinson and Wakefield were soul-driven, not ego-driven, athletes. As such, they were role models for all of us — athletes or not.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


Comments are closed.

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.