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There was once a time when children of all ages would meet after school at a local schoolyard or city street. Their gathering involved no cell phones, no Twitter, Facebook, or any other form of social media. Rather, a simple bat and ball took the place of what is now considered essential. Kids were once able to enter a big league stadium at a reasonable price and show up early to see their favorite stars take batting practice.
It was as simple as walking towards row one and getting acknowledged by one of your idols, which made you feel like you belonged. The days of waiting by the player’s parking lot just to catch a glimpse or seek a signature are through. These days, you will find that stadium restrictions and ticket prices have changed the way kids experience sports. It is a different era in many aspects. Sports may never return to what they used to be, but according to Bob Salomon and former big league All-Star Mike Sweeney, its well worth the effort in trying to bring it back.
Salomon represents the image of a regular father with a love and passion for kids and athletics. Salomon is most recognized as the driving force behind the award winning children’s book, “A Glove of Their Own,” a story about paying it forward and children who play baseball simply for the love of the game. Through hard work and a vision, he has attracted the attention of numerous baseball stars such as Don Mattingly, Yogi Berra, Joe Torre, Tommy John, Phil Niekro, Bud Harrelson, Roy White, Bernie Williams, Eric Chavez, Jason Grilli, and Nelson Cruz, among others. Throughout all the wonderful opportunities that Bob has been blessed with, he is inspired by one thing – helping children.
Sharing that vision is Mike Sweeney, a retired Major League Baseball player who spent 16 years in the big leagues. The former first baseman and designated hitter made his first of four-consecutive American League All-Star teams in 2000, a season where he finished with 29 home runs and 144 RBI. Sweeney spent the first 13 years of his career with the Kansas City Royals (1995-2007) before stints with the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Philadelphia Phillies. Sweeney retired before the start of the 2011 season, and now works as a studio analyst on MLB Network. He and his wife Shara run “The Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation,” which is a foundation designed to help children and carry out the three themes of love, family, and youth.
When Salomon first spoke to Sweeney, he was unaware of his past success on the baseball field. What attracted him the most to the former Royals slugger was his desire to help children and return America’s Pastime back to its roots as a game and experience that everyone can enjoy.
“I was kind of embarrassed, because I didn’t know who he was,” Salomon admitted. “We had an instant friendship after the first call. But when I mentioned his name to some friends that follow the game, I quickly learned about the impact he had, not just in baseball, but on people. After a lengthy second conversation, I learned that all the perceptions were true. I knew we had to join forces.”
Sweeney has long been considered one of the “good guys” in the game of baseball, with numerous accolades showing his efforts away from the field. Before the 2009 season, the Kansas City Royals created “The Mike Sweeney Award,” which recognizes a player in the organization that demonstrates a special giving spirit off the field.
“What attracted me to Bob Salomon was his faith and his love for kids,” Sweeney said. “He also stressed trying to use baseball to spread joy and love to people who may not have it. He had a beautiful idea with this book, ‘A Glove of Their Own,’ and it’s been used as a vehicle to light up the eyes of young ones. His next book will do even more. When we spoke, it was a perfect fit. I told him that I’d love to team up with him and his efforts because in my eyes, we had the same idea at heart, which is impacting kids.”
The gifts of Salomon’s movement go far beyond books. Bob has put together some of the most genuine athletes in sports, one being former Major League outfielder Jim Eisenreich.
“When you read the book, it’s kind of amazing,” Eisenreich said. “It brings back my memory of being at home where I grew up as a little kid. It was so simple, but it had such a long range message. For me, as a now retired professional ballplayer, it reminded me of when I was young and played in the backyard.”
Eisenreich, who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, spent 15 seasons in the big leagues, while playing for five different teams.
After being diagnosed with Tourettes at a young age, Eisenreich has been forced to deal with his condition on a daily basis. Baseball was his getaway, and it was during competition at the stadium where it bothered him the least. His success includes a .290 career batting average and a World Series championship with the Florida Marlins in 1997.
After the success of the first book, Bob hopes to reach even greater heights as he produces a second children’s book, while this time, using the sport of football. The story, titled “Beyond the Laces,” will portray the true gift of athletes, which is the impact they have on children. It will unite all sports and also showcase the message of never giving up.
The story promises to take you on a roller coaster of emotions as the game of football helps a father and son overcome an obstacle that simply defines the will to keep fighting. Salomon’s own love for the sport is beneficial, and with many big names sharing his beliefs, the sky is the limit for what this new project can achieve.
“The goal of the football book is to make all athletes come together to help kids,” Salomon said. “We want to tour throughout hospitals around the country with various sports figures and send the message out about not giving up. My dream is that the NFL and United Way will use the book to help promote this message and place a positive impact on children and the game of football.”
With athletes like Jim Eisenreich and new addition Mike Sweeney, Bob’s network continues to grow with individuals who resemble the very idea behind the movement. Ironically, both Eisenreich and Sweeney each spent time with the Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies in their respective careers. In addition, both were friends on a personal level and were shocked when they learned that they were both drawn to Salomon and his movement. Whether it is luck or faith, according to Bob, the man upstairs has a huge hand on what’s going on.
“This story has been rallied behind and a movement was spawned with a charitable heart and the will of a lion,” said former Major League outfielder and Salomon supporter Doug Glanville. “And we plan on barnstorming the globe, sharing the message, bringing more people into the fold, and truly ‘paying it forward.’ I hope you will join us, because it is a runaway train and it will one day bring the humanity back to all of the sports we hold dear by employing our greatest resource – people.”
When ordering “A Glove of Their Own,” $3 will be donated to “The Mike and Shara Sweeney Family Foundation” when using the code SFF-029 at http://www.agloveoftheirown.com
To join the movement and to learn more, please feel free to contact Bob Salomon directly at AGloveOfTheirOwn@aol.com.
Topics: Baseball Player, Baseball Stars, Bat And Ball, Batting Practice, Bernie Williams, Bud Harrelson, Don Mattingly, Eric Chavez, Experience Sports, Facebook, First Baseman, Jason Grilli, Joe Torre, Major League Baseball, Mike Sweeney, Nelson Cruz, Phil Niekro, Roy White, Star Tea, Tommy John, Yogi Berra