ARLINGTON – This was a big day for one of my early heroes. Andre Dawson was the guy I wanted to be like when I was a kid growing up in Pine Bluff, Ark. My granddad and I would watch games on WGN, and “The Hawk” was killing the ball and making great plays in right field for the Cubs. He ran the bases hard and he had a cannon, I remember that.
Andre had a huge influence on me with the way he played the game, his aggressive, all-out style. You could tell the man loved to play and was a fierce competitor, and that’s how I’ve always tried to be. I even copied his batting stance when I was a kid, before I found my own.
I heard about how great he was in Montreal, and how that artificial turf in the Expos’ park he played in for 10 years messed up his knees. Lyle Spencer, who covers us for MLB.com, has told me how much the Dodgers respected Andre back in the day when he was covering them. He thought The Hawk was the best player in the National League when he was a young center fielder covering ground, throwing guys out and hitting bombs for the Expos.
I can relate to what he went through, now that I’ve moved from the artificial turf in Minnesota to the natural surface, God’s green grass, in Southern California with the Angels. It makes a huge difference over the course of the season. I used to feel so beat up playing on that carpet. I’m really happy for the young Twins like my protégé Denard Span, who won’t have to go through what I did, and what Kirby Puckett went through playing center field on that hard turf.
It tells you a lot about Andre Dawson that he was able to get through that, get to Wrigley Field as a free agent, and show his stuff when he won the NL MVP award in 1987. If anybody had any doubts about him being a Hall of Fame player, that should have taken care of them. He led the league with 49 homers and 137 RBIs. That man could rake.
This is a great day for a great player and a good man. I also want to congratulate the other Hall of Famers who were enshrined today – Whitey Herzog, Doug Harvey, Jon Miller and Bill Madden. It’s the biggest honor in the game, and I’m sure they’re all having the time of their lives in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Whitey Herzog managed the Cardinals when they were my favorite team in the ’80s, with Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee, all those burners. Herzog turned out some great teams, and he’s very deserving. I’m sure he’s happy to go in with an umpire like Harvey, an announcer like Miller and a writer like Madden – along with The Hawk, of course.
Time to get ready for the series finale with the Rangers. We’ve got some work today.
For me, every day is Mother’s Day. It’s always been that way, always will be that way. She’s my guiding light, the one who always put that smile on my face and gave me the strength to handle whatever comes my way.
Shirley Hunter, my mom, was a teacher for more than 30 years in Little Rock and Pine Bluff, Ark. She taught high school early on, then third grade for the last 20 years or so. She’s an awesome lady. She taught my brothers – Taru, Tishque and Tramar – and me while she was teaching all those other kids. My dad, Theotis, was like a kid too, so she really had her hands full with a house full of guys.
When she taught in Little Rock, it was a 40-minute drive, so she didn’t get home until about 6 at night. With her gone all day, we made sure we took care of whatever we could to make it easier for her. She’d get home and make sure we were all good. If any of us got sick, she’d stay home and take care of us. She took care of everybody. That was just the way she was.
And she disciplined us. She did everything she could to keep us out of trouble. She knew how to put the fear of God in us. Any time I was thinking about doing something with my friends that I knew was wrong, I’d hear her voice in my head. She’d say, “You do that, I’m gonna whip your butt.’ And she would, too.
There were a lot of men in my family; I have two nieces, and my mom takes care of them. They’re the girls she never had.
Her dad, George Cobbs, is the one who got me interested in baseball. He played the game and taught me how to hold the ball and bat, when I was 7 or 8. As I got older, he told me about the history of the game, made me aware of all the great players. We’d watch games together, the Braves and Cubs usually, and he’d tell me all these stories about the legends.
My mom was very athletic when she was young. I remember she used to line us all up when we were kids and race us, and she’d beat us every time. That must be where I got my speed.
She didn’t have it easy, raising all of us and working as hard as she did. But she never complained, never talked about her problems. She had to be tired, but she always took care of us, washing our clothes, cooking dinner every night. We got a little more time with her, an extra hour, when she started teaching in Pine Bluff, when I was in eighth grade. That was nice.
Even though I’m gone so much and away from my mom now, it still carries on. My wife, Katrina, takes care of our sons the way my mom took care of us. And they’re doing everything they can to take care of her, like we did with our mom.
My wife is actually a lot like my mom. She cleans up after me, holds me when I’m sick. And she disciplines me! She makes me sleep on the couch when I mess up. She inherited my mom’s role, but I try to tell her I’m a grown man now.
I’ll be in Seattle this weekend, trying to get things turned around with the Angels. I want to send my love to my mom and my wife on their special day.
I’m really blessed to have had such strong women in my life. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be if my mom hadn’t kept me in line and taken care of me when I was young. I have her to thank for everything I’ve done in life. I’ve always tried to make her proud, and that never stops.
All my love, Mom. Have a great Mother’s Day. I know all my teammates share my feelings about their mothers, so here’s to all of you, too. All mothers deserve to be treated like queens on their day.