Outside of Albert Pujols, who came onto the baseball scene in 2001, my sophomore year of high school, my two favorite players as a kid were without question Robin Ventura of the White Sox and Jim Thome of the Indians.
Because of Jim Thome and others, it became cool in the 1990s for people to wear Cleveland Indian hats and jerseys around the country.
As a first baseman and outfielder in junior high, I even wore my socks like Thome and imitated his batting stance, until my baseball coach warned me that having a stance like Thome would mess by back.
But the real reason why I rooted for Thome was because he stood for what was right with the game of baseball.
Unlike Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco, he wasn't a douchebag that tried to upstage his teammates.
He was by all accounts, a Midwestern guy who was getting paid to do something that he loved to do, play baseball to the best of his abilities.
And that he has done for so many years.
The only news that Thome has made over the years that wasn't baseball-related was the fact that he put all 10 of his nephews through college.
Not putting someone through a bar window.
Paying out of his own pocket for his relatives' education.
When Thome hit number 500 in 2007, I wrote a glowing column on how Thome, with every swing of his bat during my childhood, made me love playing baseball even more when I played because he understood like so many that it was a pure game.
Regardless of how many chumps use steroids.
Regardless of how many guys throw tantrums and cry to the media.
Early this morning, one of the greatest players of my generation ended up getting traded to Los Angeles with Jon Garland in hopes of putting a jolt in the Dodgers' lineup and reunited with Manny Ramirez.
And maybe, if this winds up being his last season, a chance to win a World Series title.
A good guy ending on a high note.
The stuff that movie producers crave.