On Sunday, Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Both men, who were classy individuals throughout their careers, maintained that same level of professionalism and leadership during their induction speeches.
Gwynn: "When you sign your name on the dotted line, it's more than just playing the game of baseball. You've got to be responsible and make decisions and show people how things are supposed to be done."
Ripken: "This day shouldn't be all about us. Today is about celebrating the best that baseball has been and the best it can be. This is a symbol it's alive, popular. Whether you like it or not, as big leaguers, we are role models. The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative?"
Though the above quotes were just a few from Sunday, they get the point across sufficiently enough -- they understood the challenges that were in front of them, and they passed them all with flying colors.
Apparently to some people, however, working hard, being responsible, and playing the game the right way have all become, more or less, undervalued or even corny. To say that an athlete played the game with everything he or she had, cared about the overall craft itself, or even valued the sport and organization enough to stay out of trouble is occasionally followed by the response, "So what? That's what professional athletes are supposed to do. They make millions of dollars." Unfortunately that's not really the case anymore in sports, which can only be emphasized further by the past few weeks' events. Michael Vick's currently in big legal trouble for allegedly participating in dogfighting, the NBA has credibility problems after an NBA referee scandal, and the suspicion surrounding Barry Bonds has captured the nation's attention, both positively and negatively, bringing thousands to the defense of Hank Aaron as being, no matter what Bonds does, the real home-run king.
Amidst all of the scandals, arrests, suspensions, suspicions, and disappointing actions in sports news, Ripken and Gwynn reminded many baseball fans, and even just sports fans in general, that not all athletes take where they're at for granted or refuse to acknowledge the ways they got to where they are today. They were blessed with some talent and natural abilities, sure, but they worked hard and put the time and effort in in order to succeed. People were given the opportunity on Sunday to observe two men who performed and acted like many fans simply wish more athletes would today.
Nobody in this world is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but in a sports world that frequently disappoints fans of all ages, having the chance to recognize and honor real idols and role models was definitely a welcomed event. People want to see athletes work hard and show up for work to put in the time and effort just like many do everyday with their own jobs and careers. Gwynn and Ripken did that every single time they stepped onto the field -- and I thank them for it.