During my career in baseball and broadcasting, I've been blessed
and fortunate to work for, with, and around some tremendous people.
They inspired me and I came to respect them a great deal for their
class, integrity, and talent. On Cinco de Mayo, here are my top
5 best people in sports.
5. DENNIS ECKERSLEY Hall of Fame pitcher, NESN baseball
analyst. Most of us who watched the Eck during his incredible
career thought he was cocky, brash, and self-absorbed. After all,
he was a rock-star in cleats who pointed at many hitters that
he struck out. But Eck is living proof that you can't judge a book
by its cover. He is the most humble, unaffected player to walk
through the doors of Cooperstown. The Eck is downright cool
and treats everybody from the custodian to the commissioner,
the same way: Great. Just a wonderful person.
4. JERRY YORK Hockey coach, Boston College. York, quite
simply, could be the nicest man in college sports, bar none. I
think he has an electric fence around his brain because I don't
believe the man has ever said anything bad about anyone in his
life. As soon as one comes to his mind, it must be zapped or
something. Oh yeah, the man can flat out coach, leading the
Eagles to four national championships. The man has ZERO ego.
3. HUNTER NICKELL President of the SPEED CHANNEL.
Nickell is the Roy Hobbs of sports television executives. He
started out as a high school hockey coach and an English teacher
as his vocation. When he was just 23 years old, he suffered a
nervous breakdown and disappeared from New Canaan High
School, where he worked. Next time I heard from him, he was the
General Manager at Fox Sports Net in Atlanta. I had the privilege
of working for him, and he is one of the most loyal, intelligent and
creative "executives" I've ever worked for. A true stand-up guy
who makes his own decisions without being influenced by others.
2. FREDI GONZALEZ Manager, Atlanta Braves. I first met
Gonzalez when both of us were starting out in our careers. I was
a neophyte sports anchor in Erie, Pa. and he was the manager of
the Erie Sailors, the Marlins first-ever team in professional baseball
Our careers took on an eerily similar path, as we kept climbing the
ladder in the "minors," then ultimately made it to Atlanta at the same
time. He was a third base coach during the Bobby Cox years. Gonzo
is truly one of the nicest guys in the business. Never forgets where
he came from and has no ego whatsoever. In baseball, they call
tuning out somebody, "Big Leaguing" someone. That's not in his
vocabulary. Just a great guy and EVERYBODY in baseball and
broadcasting says the same thing.
1.DICK HOYT Triathlete. Hoyt could be the most inspirational
person to walk the earth since Jesus Christ. I'm serious. His son,
Rick, was born with cerebral palsy and couldn't communicate.
Doctors told Dick it'd be best to institutionalize his son because
he'd be nothing more than a "vegetable". I don't have to tell you
where Dick told him to go. Instead, he started pushing his son
in a wheelchair during road races. After his first one, Rick, through
a computer, told his dad that when they ran, "he didn't feel handicapped
anymore." The rest is history. Together they have competed in more
than 1,000 events, including 68 marathons and 240 triathlons. When
he swims, Dick puts Rick in a boat and pulls him. Are you kidding
me? This guy is a true Ironman. Unselfish, dedicated to his son,
and a man of impeccable character and integrity. Truly inspiring.