Fans' View

Fans’ View: The final one

It was a blustery morning in April 2010. I called in sick, got my children out of school and off we went to the first Philadelphia Union Pep Rally.

We had no idea what to expect. I haven’t been to a pep rally since college and they weren’t called pep rallies where I’m from — Texas Aggies have midnight yell practice (might be an interesting concept — midnight yell in Chester?)

There was a nice crowd there, mostly dressed in the light blue and gold of the Sons of Ben. Looking back at the photos, the first thing that struck me was how much hair Jack Mac had!

photo 2

We listened to a few speeches, but the highlight of our afternoon was at the end, when the players threw t-shirts out to the crowd. My youngest, who was 5 at the time, was on my husband’s shoulders. Being the opportunist that I am, I was screaming, “Throw one to the kid!” The last player took pity on the crazed mom and threw one to James.

Before he could reach out to grab it, an arm swooped down from above my husband and snatched it. I turned to see what had happened. Some guy, obviously taller than my husband, had stolen my kid’s shirt, right from his outstretched arms. The horror! In my best shaming voice, I said “The shirt was for the kid.” He had the grace to look sheepish, but kept the shirt anyway.

photo 1Slightly crestfallen, we started to walk to the car. There was a tap on my shoulder and a voice said, “Its too small for me anyway.” Guilt, justice, whatever, the shirt was ours.

We unfolded it. Lo and behold, it was autographed by No. 10. We had no idea who that was, so when we got home (this was before smart phones), I researched and found it was Danny Mwanga! Eureka! We had our first autograph from a Union player.

A few days later, we went to an event that was attended by Alejandro Moreno and Sebastien Le Toux. Two more autographs…this is pretty easy I thought. Maybe we could get the whole team?

So one by one, at events, after games — many from the Dallas away game I wrote about earlier this summer — we collected autographs until there was one player left. Unfortunately, it was a player who got traded.

For the 2011 season, I was plotting how to get it, but he was injured and didn’t travel to PPL Park. 2012 and 2013, we played that team away.

And then, it was Sunday. Last Sunday. Five years in the making: Shea Salinas was at PPL Park.

I was not letting him leave until my shirt was signed. I sent him a tweet on Saturday with a pic and a request hoping that would help our cause.

I left the stands early (for the first time ever, I might add) to wander over to the tunnel. Sadly, when I got there it was “closed” — they had put the bike racks out already to prevent people from going in.

Plan B it is.

I walked down to the edge of the field near section 101 and stood to watch the final moments of the game, head spinning, trying to figure out what exactly my punt plan actually was. Then, I recognized a Union staffer I had met a couple of times. I explained to her my dilemma, pointed to my cute kid, and asked for advice. She thought for a moment and said, “I’ll give it to the team liaison and he can ask Shea to sign it.”

photo 3My heart sang!

So I watched the liaison guy take my shirt and wander around the field trying to catch up with Shea. He caught up to him, chatted, pointed to us and then…Shea started walking towards us. He very graciously shook my son’s hand and signed my shirt.

Over the past five years, I think I have scrounged the autographs of all of the players. We have a ball, lots of signed photos, and this year I had them sign a mat in a picture frame. However, Shea Salinas has to be the crowning glory. The shirt is done, it can be framed, and I might just retire from chasing autographs.

Well, that would be after I get Michael Bradley to sign our Monchengladbach jerseys next Wednesday, but that’s another story.

6 Comments

  1. Great story, Staci!
    .
    I’m always amazed how forthcoming and open soccer players are, at least when compared to guys in other sports.

  2. Great story. Wouldn’t have expected any other response from Salinas than that, he seems like a down to earth great guy.

  3. Great stuff! I was watching from Section 103 as Shea ran over to sign autographs nearby for UNION supporters. Nice to see him do that so many years after leaving Philly.

  4. Great story. During the pre-game warm ups there was a kid in section 127 who yelled out to Salinas for an autograph. Shea acknowledged him and said “I’ll get you after the match.” I was very pleasantly suprised to see him walk over after a tough loss and search out the kid and sign an autograph for him. I pointed it out to my wife and she said “Can you imagine an NFL player doing that?”

  5. Wonderful story Staci! Pretty cool of Shea to do that. Agree with Rob above – this what makes MLS so great. I’m sure it won’t always be this way, so enjoy it while we can.

  6. Really hope it doesn’t change anytime soon. We have attended several of the meet the team events and all the players have been great.they still know its a growing league and they are willing to do their part!

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