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Diamond Recall

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Editor's Note: With the remake of "Bad News Bears" opening in theaters this weekend, E-ticket experienced flashbacks to our glory days in youth baseball. It wasn't only the games and stats that came flooding back, but the crazy coaches, wild teammates and nutty parents. We asked some top athletes and entertainers to share their memories, as well.

BILLY BOB THORNTON (Actor/screenwriter; portrays Morris Buttermaker in updated version of "Bad News Bears"): It all starts in Little League. Whether it's Johnny Damon or whoever, it started in Little League. I think hard-core sports guys still know Little League is a part of them. That's where we first got excited about the whole thing.

Put Me In, Coach ALEX RODRIGUEZ (3B, New York Yankees): I had a coach, Eddie Rodriguez, who was a real character. If we played badly, he'd tell us to start running until he got tired. Then, he'd go out to the outfield, take off his shirt and start sunning himself -- while we were running.

RICK DEMPSEY (first-base coach, Baltimore Orioles; 1983 World Series MVP. Dempsey's 14-year-old Pony League all-star team in Canoga Park/Woodland Hills, Calif., was managed by John Jennings, who as it turned out was half of a bank-robbing duo known as the Mutt and Jeff robbers): He would rob a bank in every city we played in. We played in San Pedro, San Diego, Granada Hills, Lancaster, San Jose. We won the West Coast Championship and earned a trip to a tournament in Pennsylvania. It was ironic. He successfully robbed 12 banks, and we won 12 games. We lost the 13th, and he got caught on the 13th robbery. When we lost, he lost.

We all thought he was a good guy. He just wanted to be a big spender for a while. We had six or seven guys who went on to play professionally, including me and Robin Yount, who was the bat boy, and his older brother, Larry. Jennings just was excited about coaching this team. He'd rob the banks, and then he would pay for the parents to go on the trips. He would take us out to McDonald's and buy us meals and things like that. He was a gruff and tough guy to us kids but also very nice.

We had a big, power-hitting first baseman, and his parents couldn't afford to travel with us, so he paid for their hotel and their food. He just wanted to be a big shot for a while.

We were all pretty surprised. We were a real tight-knit group. ... The parents used to play poker together and Mr. Jennings would use the money he got from the banks.

Our shortstop's father was a detective assigned to the Mutt and Jeff robberies. How coincidental is that? He was assigned to catch them, never knowing one of them was the manager of his kid's all-star team.

DON MATTINGLY (hitting coach, New York Yankees; former American League batting champ): Our coach was a pretty funny guy. He'd sit at the corner of the dugout with his leg up on the fence, chewing that tobacco stuff that looked like a rope. And he'd always say to me, "When you get to the big leagues, I want tickets." I don't think he was serious about me becoming a big-leaguer. But when I got called up (to the Yankees), I definitely got him tickets, you bet.

TIKI BARBER (RB, New York Giants): One of our coaches was this Harley rider. He was one of those guys who wore tank tops and Harley shirts. He was pretty cool though -- he knew what he was talking about in the game. It was fun to mess with him because of how he looked, but we learned a lot from him. He had one of those carefree attitudes, which is good for little league sports because you don't want too much pressure. The bottom line is you want to have fun. He got the best out of us because he knew how to treat us.

DEREK JETER (SS, New York Yankees): We had a really bad team until my dad started coaching us, then we won. But it was so much different than it is today. We had fun, it wasn't all about winning or losing. My dad treated us all the same -- it was no different for me just because I was his son. One year, he put me at second base, so it's not like he was playing favorites or anything.

KEVIN MILLAR (1B, Boston Red Sox): My dad was my coach. So baseball was a big thing in my family. You had to do it, and we loved playing it. ... Still, to this day, he's a guy who I talk to about stuff, baseball-wise. He's got a good way of teaching and communicates well. He taught me to just love the game. Ability-wise, people are different. Some run faster or they're taller or bigger, but he always told me to love the game more than anybody.

CHRIS MC ALISTER (DB, Baltimore Ravens): I was on third base, and I kept looking at my dad because he was the coach, and I was like, 'Dad, I could steal home! I could steal home! The catcher's just lobbing the ball back to the pitcher, so I could steal home.' He's like, 'No, don't do it.'

The next pitch after the catcher caught it and threw it back, I just ran home anyway. And the pitcher caught it and fired it back to the catcher. He went down to block the plate to tag me, and I jumped up over the top of him, and landed on the back of the plate. The Mike Vick leap. My dad just shook his head at me like, "What are you doing?" I said, "I told you I could get there."

JUSTIN UPTON (No. 1 pick in 2005 MLB draft by Arizona Diamondbacks/ Gatorade National High School Baseball Player of the Year): One time my team from Chesapeake, Virginia, was getting pounded. ... It was something like 17-0. And the coach was one of my best friend's dads, and he was one of the funniest guys you'd ever meet. So, he comes out to the mound, and he calls everybody in, even the outfielders.

Now, everyone on this team was really tight. We were almost like a family. So, we're all out on the mound, and he comes and stands in the middle of us and just starts to sing, "We are fam-uh-leeee." He made all of us start singing "We Are Family" right there in the middle of the mound. We ended up only scoring two runs and still getting killed, but we all had fun getting our tails kicked after that.

TINO MARTINEZ (1B, New York Yankees): I played Little League in a time when parents didn't push kids too hard. It was more fun back then. I had good coaches who made it fun for everyone, not like today -- it's all about winning now.

I have a hard time watching the coaches in Little League today. My son is 12 and it's tough for me to keep my mouth shut when I see coaches doing it for themselves, not for the kids. They want to be able to tell their buddies in the office on Monday morning, "my team won on Saturday." If it means not letting two or three kids play, keeping them on the bench just so they can win, they'll do it.

DAVID WELLS (P, Boston Red Sox): When I was 10, 11 and 12, my coach, Steve Allen, well, he passed away a couple of years ago, but he's the man who taught me everything about baseball. I mean, he used to take me to Padres games and teach me how to score keep and have a book and all that.

I give a lot of credit for him spending all that time with me. He treated me like his own son, and he has two other sons. He spent the time with me, worked with me all the time and he pretty much embedded in my mind that you're going to be the best player and so whatever sport I played, I practiced until I was the best player out there.

FRANK CATALANOTTO (OF, Toronto Blue Jays): My dad was usually my coach in Little League. He taught me more about baseball than anyone. Whether I did well or did badly, whenever I got in the car, my dad was telling me what I did wrong or what I did right. He's the guy I learned the most from. Sometimes it was hard to have my dad as the coach. I think because the other kids on the teams would think that my dad would favor me or something like that. Sometimes, when you're a kid and your dad tells you, "Hey, you should have done this. You should have done that." Sometimes, you don't want to hear that and you get upset. I remember getting upset even though he was just trying to help me out.

JEREMY ROENICK (C, Philadelphia Flyers): I wanted to pitch so badly, in this one game because I felt so good and so strong. I wanted to pitch this day and the coach wouldn't let me pitch. At 10 or 11 years old, I blew a nutty and snapped on the bench and all that stuff. He ended up letting me pitch after the fourth inning. I struck out everybody but one from that point on. The coach was mad he didn't put me in from the beginning.

MC ALISTER: The Steal probably came when I was about 11. It's still The Steal. My pops, he can tell you. If you ask him about The Steal, he'll know exactly what you're talking about.

Everybody Loves A Kid In Uniform

JETER: I used to look forward to Little League. I'd put on my uniform the day before Opening Day, just to see how it fit, how it looked. We'd have a big Opening Day parade for all the teams, too. Everyone would come out to see the players. It was exciting to be part of that.

MATT WILLIAMS (former MLB IF): My first uniform. Every kid wants to have his uniform because that means you're a part of a team. It's a lot of fun to be able to put those new pants on and that new shirt on and that new hat.

SUE BIRD (G, Seattle Storm): All I remember is that we had to wear really high socks.

ROY HALLADAY (P, Toronto Blue Jays): I remember the first time I put on the uniform. You kind of get the same feelings as a kid as you do now. You get that nervousness and excitement, so it was fun.

CATALANOTTO: The most memorable moment of Little League was the parade before the first game. I remember the anticipation and the excitement for Opening Day and that parade. We'd walk down those streets, and at the end of the parade, some guy gave a little speech, and then we went and played our game. I never remember specific games that I did well in, I have a terrible memory, but that is one thing that I always seem to remember.

Parental Advisory

MIKE ERUZIONE (captain, 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team): One day, my dad was on the fence watching the game. I hit a ball that went foul and then went fair right before first base, and I ran and I was safe. The umpire called it a foul ball. My father started yelling, "That's a fair ball -- you don't know the rules," and the umpire replied, "Do you know the rules?" My father said, "Yeah," and the umpire goes, "Do you want to umpire?" My father said, "Yeah." He jumped over the fence, and he ended up being an umpire in Little League baseball for years.

WILLIAMS: I had a friend who I played with -- his name is Bob -- and his dad had this booming voice. His famous line was, "Come on Matty, hit one out of here, and let's go get a Budweiser." Everybody would laugh, but he was one of those parents who was out there for every game, and he had this voice that would echo through the whole field.

THORNTON (on being taught to pitch by his father, who used an old tire as a target): It gave you something that was close to what a strike zone is to teach you control. Most of the dads would hang it on a rope like a tire swing. My dad put a mattress against a tree, so the ball didn't go all over the place. And he put the tire on the ground and leaned it up against the mattress so it was down here. He taught me to keep the ball down. I'll never forget him for that.

ERUZIONE: Then, another particular game, I was on second base, after a guy got a base hit, I was running to home ... When I slid I knocked the ball out of the kid's hand. And the kid picked it up real close, but my father called me safe. The kid got mad, and he threw the ball on the ground. It hit the plate, went up in the air, and the kid who hit the ball scored. The kid's father in center field jumped the fence and came after my father screaming at him, "I can't believe you did this. He was out -- it was because of your son." And nobody ever saw the kid drop the ball other than the other coaches of the team. Well, they went into this whole pushing and shoving thing, and they had to separate the guys. The guy who was pushing my father was the sponsor of our team, his son just happened to be on the other team.

KYLE BOLLER (QB, Baltimore Ravens): Parents are always crazy, man. Everybody's kid is the best. It's funny how political things are.

MARSHALL FAULK (RB, St. Louis Rams): You always have the dedicated parents. Every team I played on, it was the same group of guys. So you had the same parents at baseball, basketball and football games. They came out and supported their kids all the time. They wanted their kid to excel and of course felt like their child was always the one who needed to have the ball. ... Looking at it now, as a parent, I would call them dedicated.

AARON RODGERS (QB, Green Bay Packers): My 10-year-old year in Little League, some parent came over to the dugout when his kid wasn't playing. His kid was probably the worst player on the team and pulled his kid out of the dugout and said "I'll see you later." Our coach wasn't too worried about it ... it was kind of funny.

Glory Days

BARRY ZITO (P, Oakland A's): I was in all-star when I was 12, but I was never really in the political clique. I was always the kid who was just good enough to make it. I had no chance of pitching, right? Everybody was pitching but me. So my mom was like praying and praying and praying. She said, "I just know there's going to be an opportunity when Barry's going to shine."

WELLS: I remember one game, where I was sick as a dog. I probably had a 103-degree temperature. I was sweating, and I couldn't play. But they asked me to come up and hit because the game was on the line. I came up and I hit a home run. It was one of those Cinderella stories. After that, I came back in the dugout and my mom took me home.

BARBER: I was playing center field, and I had a strong arm for a little kid. There was a deep fly ball all the way back to the fence, and the guy tried to tag up from third, and I threw him out. It was a slower kid, but I threw him out and was pretty excited for myself.

ZITO: So it came down to be the championship game for district or regionals in San Diego. The starting pitcher got shelled. He came out after an inning or two. And I went the next five innings and gave up like one hit and had 10 strikeouts and got the win and was like the hero. My mom said, "That's a total demonstration."

GARY BAXTER (DB, Cleveland Browns): Baseball is the sport I'm supposed to be playing right now. I was All-America, I was everything. I got bumped up every level -- like two levels above my age group. All-star, baby. I just took a detour into football. My mom wanted me to play baseball, dad wanted me to run track. She said I was too little.

ERUZIONE: I hit a home run off of a friend of mine, and we still talk about it to this day. ... The home run was to straightaway center. I'll walk by him and go, "Hey didn't I hit a home run off you in Little League?"

ROENICK: I played in a place called New Fairfield, Connecticut. The thing that was most intriguing to me, when I went to go play Little League, was that there was a fence and I had a chance to hit the ball over the fence. I didn't do it too often -- I had two home runs in my Little League career, but I think I only struck out twice ever.

BODE MILLER (Olympic skier): I remember it was one of my stepbrother's first games, he was going back and made a snow-cone catch. He was way out of position, playing somewhere he shouldn't have been -- he had never really played much. When he ended up making the catch, he was so psyched. He had just moved to our town, and he was really psyched.

BAXTER: I played pitcher, shortstop and center field, so print that real big. If any MLB teams need that, I'm gonna do a Deion Sanders. I talk to him all the time about trying to do that. Hey, I'll be the new Deion. I can do it all, man, I just want to show my talents. I ain't gonna be blessed with these skills forever, so let's not let a diamond go down the drain.

ROENICK: One of the homers was in the last game of our town finals, and the second one took place when I made the Connecticut all-state team. We had a chance to make the Little League World Series and I hit a home run in the semifinals of the state championships. Unfortunately, we lost.

COREY MAGGETTE (F, Los Angeles Clippers): I had 23 strikeouts in one game. You can't forget that. I was 12 or so. In, what did they call it back then? An all-star game back in Chicago. I was on fire. I'll never forget that.

You Throw Like A Girl

MICHAEL YOUNG (SS, Texas Rangers): I was 10 years old, and I gave up a home run to a girl. I remember it like it was yesterday. This is definitely the most embarrassing moment of my athletic career. I threw a ball that was about helmet-high and she tomahawked it. I was so embarrassed.

MARK KOTSAY (OF, Oakland A's): I remember striking out against a girl pitcher. Ila Borders, I think was her name.

YOUNG: I remember watching her run the bases hoping she'd miss a bag so I could appeal it and get her out. I made sure she touched first, second and third, and I eyeballed her until she touched the plate, just begging for her to miss a base, so I could appeal it and take away the home run. She was 12 years old. Her name was Delayna. I remember it like it was yesterday. It took me a while to get over it. I thought about shifting my attention to basketball at that point.

STUART SCOTT (anchor, ESPN): Probably the best player on our team was this girl named Allison Lippert. She was just a superb athlete back in the early-to-mid-'70s in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was the girl who played on all of the boys' teams and was better than all of them. We went to high school together, and it turned out she was an All-America soccer player in high school. But there was a game when I was 12, I started pitching and she was catching, and then midway through the game she pitched and I caught. And there was a pop fly in the infield, and she and I collided, and she tore knee ligaments. She came back, but I always felt bad about that.

KATIE THORLAKSON (soccer player, Notre Dame): I played hardball and softball. I made all-star until I was about 13, and then I had to quit because of playing with the big guys. So I moved over to softball and won a couple of championships at that. I was probably 6 when I started playing hardball in T-ball. I played pitcher and shortstop in hardball. It probably pissed off the guys, but I've been pissing off guys for my whole life.

MIA HAMM (all-time leading goalscorer in international soccer history): I played a lot of baseball and a lot of stickball growing up. The one year I played Little League, it was all I thought about. I remember going to watch my brother play and just thinking, "Wow, I want to play on the team." We definitely had much more elaborate uniforms than soccer.

TERESA WEATHERSPOON (former WNBA all-star): Oh yeah, I played. In Pineland, Texas. I was the only girl. It was my first love. My dad Charles Sr. played. He played for the Minnesota Twins, in the minor leagues. I wanted very much to play like him.

HAMM: The team I played on was the Giants, and we were pretty much the Bad News Bears. We were not very good. I was the only girl on the team, but that's pretty much my entire childhood. At age 8, you really can't tell the difference. I mean, my hair was as short as the boys'. It motivated me even more when I heard people saying, "Oh, she won't be as athletic, she won't be as talented." For me, every day, it was about proving myself.

WEATHERSPOON: Every sport was my sport, but I really liked baseball. I led the league in home runs. I always batted cleanup. I told 'em, "If you get on, you comin' in."

HAMM: My teammates didn't seem to have a problem with it. Now, it wasn't the same with my competition. The last thing they ever wanted to say was that a girl hit a home run off them, or a girl struck them out. The scouting report on me was that I'd swing at anything. And I was fast, so even if it got a single, it was a triple. Because after two pitches, I was going to steal second and then steal third. I pitched and played shortstop and left field. As a pitcher, all I could do was throw it over the plate. I didn't have any delusions of grandeur that I was the next Roger Clemens or anything. But my dad seemed to think I was because he'd sit there and yell, "Throw 'em the curveball, Mia!"

Assume The Position

JOHNNY DAMON (CF, Boston Red Sox): I was pitcher, shortstop, first base, center field, catcher. I pretty much did everything. I was the only real good player on my team. So when we made it to the districts, we would win the games that I pitched and lost the games I didn't. It was double elimination, and then you were done, so we couldn't really go that far.

THORNTON: I didn't throw the ball that hard. My fastball was maybe 81-82 mph. But I threw a lot of junk -- that was my thing. I had a really good slider, I threw a curveball, and I had a screwball. I had a good changeup, too.

PEYTON MANNING (QB, Indianapolis Colts): I knew quarterback was my ticket, so I didn't like throwing a curveball. I wanted to protect the wing a little bit. So I didn't pitch much. I strictly played shortstop.

BYRON LEFTWICH (QB, Jacksonville Jaguars): I was a pitcher. Only had a fastball, but couldn't nobody hit it. When I stepped on the mound, I was dominant.

BAXTER: I'm bringing the heat, baby. I like to bring the heat. See if you can hit it. I've got a little curveball on in there, and a little changeup, but for the most part it's just so competitive because I study my batters. Their swings. And after that, I just throw good stuff. Whatever God bless the ball to come out of my hand with, that's what I'm throwing, baby.

BARBER: I remember always being put in center field because I was the fastest and could run down all of the balls. Then, I wanted to be a pitcher and I was actually pretty good at it, so they let me stay in the infield from then on in.

LEFTWICH: You're not gonna believe this, but I used to pitch no-hitters, man. I can still get it at about 90 with a baseball, right now, today. I did it in Orlando about a month ago.

BEN ROETHLISBERGER (QB, Pittsburgh Steelers): I was a pitcher, and played center field and shortstop. I batted cleanup, though, because I was so consistent.

BUCKY LASEK (professional skateboarder): I played up until fifth grade. I played every position except for catcher. I didn't like that bat swinging in front of me. Too distracting.

ROETHLISBERGER: The first time I pitched, I struck out 10 batters. I had a curveball a little early. You're not really supposed to have one when you're 12, but I did. So, my first game I struck out 10 batters. That's probably my fondest memory.

THORNTON: Cardinals pitcher Jeff Suppan came out to the set of "Bad News Bears," and I threw with him, and he said, "You threw me about seven major-league sliders there. You could strike some guys out." But if I had made it in baseball, I would've been retired for a decade now. I'd be selling cars in Orange County or something.

You Gotta Have Friends

DAMON: I think my biggest memory is going out there with my best friends and competing and having that togetherness sunup to sundown, My team was the South Orange (N.J.) Little League. I didn't really know what to expect, so I just went out there and tried to have a good time.

BOLLER: We were staying at a hotel. As a little kid, when you are staying at a hotel with all your buddies -- you're always messing around. One of the guys had a sister, and she was 18. She was laying out by the pool, and I remember us always going up to the sixth floor and peeking down at her. She's in a bikini -- it's awesome.

DAN MARINO (Hall of Fame QB, Miami Dolphins): Oh, yeah, I grew up in a neighborhood that was very close-knit. A lot of the guys I played with in Little League, I also played with in high school ball and they're still friends now.

MANNING: Summer baseball is just so special. It's such a different atmosphere than football. Everybody's loose, and not as intense or uptight. Some of my best friends today are guys I played baseball with when I was 8 or 9 years old.

HALLADAY: I got to play on one of the two traveling teams. One was the Denver Reds and the other was the Arvada (Colorado) A's. I remember we had this tournament in Kansas City, and we got to go see the Royals play. That was a highlight for me as a kid.

Learning To Fail

JOHN O'HURLEY (actor, "Seinfeld" and "Dancing with the Stars"): Well, Little League baseball was probably 24 hours of the worst experience of my life. I was 10 years old and actually cut from the tryouts. I was one of the few people who did not actually make a team. Now Little League is usually something where it's your turn to play. It's not something where there are cuts, but in our town of West Hartford, Connecticut, there were cuts, and I was cut. So it brought a rather promising baseball career to a skidding halt.

It never occurred to me that I would be cut. I was more concerned about this kid who had Coke bottle glasses and buck teeth. He was very uncoordinated, and his dad was the only dad that stuck around for the tryouts that day. I felt very sorry for him, and I was looking over, and he was just terribly uncoordinated -- couldn't throw, couldn't catch.

At the end of the day, they said, "If we call your name, you've made the team, if you haven't ..." So I was standing there listening to the names, and I realized his name hadn't been called, and I felt so bad. Then, I realized my name wasn't called either. So I stopped caring about him all of the sudden and I burst out into tears. I didn't take it well.

BOBBY CROSBY (SS, Oakland A's): We had our best pitcher on the mound, and they had their No. 8 hitter up. Our pitcher was throwing fast, and this kid on the other team just looked awful the whole game. It was the fifth inning or something. Our pitcher threw two straight balls and I went up to him and said, "This guy is no good. Just groove him a cookie and we'll be fine. Just throw strikes."

ANDY RODDICK (professional tennis player): I remember how you'd go through the line after the game and you'd have to say "good game, good game" to the other team, even if you didn't mean it. Well, I always thought that sucked.

CROSBY: The next pitch he throws right down the middle. Bong! To dead center over the fence. And listen to this, he hits it dead center and the kid's running around the bases. He rounds and touches first base. He comes around second and misses second base on a home run. Completely overruns second base on a home run. He comes home. We appeal second base. He's out. I've never seen that.

I'm sure the kid was so amped that he missed the base.

MALCOLM GLADWELL (author, "The Tipping Point" and "Blink"): In my brief Little League career, I had several clear advantages over my peers. First, I was fast. Second, I was -- for that year, and for that year only -- big for my age.

RICH HARDEN (P, Oakland A's): We were at provincials [in Canada, which is the U.S. equivalent of a state tournament] . It was a double-elimination tournament, and Canadians [nationals] was the next step. We were in the finals, so all we had to do was win one game. We had a doubleheader scheduled just in case we lost the first game and then we played the second one right away, and we ended up losing two in a row.

GLADWELL: What I could not do, however, was throw the ball with any accuracy -- even by the extraordinarily lax standards of Little League. The outfield, then, was impossible. Third was tried with disastrous consequences. Second and short were plainly ridiculous. So I finally ended up at first. After all, how often did a first baseman have to throw the ball?

HARDEN: We were so certain that we had it. It was pretty disappointing.You're so close but you just can't do it. I guess it was a similar feeling to being in the playoffs two years ago and leading Boston by two games then losing three straight.

CROSBY: Everyone noticed. For me, I felt so bad. I told him to totally groove one and this kid hits a boomer and then he missed second and I was off the hook.

KEENAN MC CARDELL (WR, San Diego Chargers): The first time I ever started playing baseball, I was horrible. I remember striking out ... just bad. I was just horrible, but I just saw myself improve so much, it started to be one of the better sports I played.

GLADWELL: First game. Man on third. Slow roller along the first-base line. I charge the ball, tag the hitter, and throw home. That was, at least, my intent. The ball sailed wide and nailed my brother, who was sitting in the stands behind home plate, in the head. He's shaken, but OK. Two innings later. Bases loaded. Line drive up the first-base line. I spear the ball expertly, step on the bag and fire home -- and hit my brother in the head again.

MIKE SCHMIDT (Hall of Fame 3B, Philadelphia Phillies): I have one Little League memory. It's the only one I have, really. One Saturday afternoon, my good friend in the neighborhood, he's two years older than me -- his name was Jeff Allen. Actually I think he was 12, and I was 9. He was, at that time, like the best player in the league. That day, pitching against him, I threw a no-hitter against his team, and he threw a one-hitter. Well, I walked him somewhere toward the end of the ball game, and he's over there messing around and he took off for second base. I threw the ball into center field, and he scored without a hit. We lost 1-0, and I cried for, oh, two hours after the game.

I still can't sleep at night sometimes remembering that game.

GLADWELL: I ended my first -- and final -- season in Little League as a pinch-runner.

RODDICK: Because I played tennis, that didn't translate too well into baseball. I always thought I had to go for every pitch. I had no patience. Balls, strikes, whatever, I was swinging

JERRY PORTER (WR, Oakland Raiders): I couldn't hit my way out of a paper bag. I could field like crazy but I couldn't hit, so I would step in front of the ball and get hit to get on base.

KOTSAY: I got thrown out of a game before it started. It was an all-star game, and I had an old all-star hat from the previous year that I had worn and sweated through, and it was a little bit discolored. It had the same logo and it was the same hat, but it was discolored, and the umpire told me I couldn't wear it. I told him I was going to wear it before the game started and he threw me out. Hey, I was 13.

MARINO: When I was in Little League, I pretty much dominated. I didn't botch up anything because I was pretty good at what I did.

It's All About The Bribery

JOHN ELWAY (Hall of Fame QB, Denver Broncos): My dad said he would give me $25 if I hit a home run. So, two days later, I hit the home run, and I remember that because I got the $25, too. It was a good deal.

BOLLER: I know one time my grandma came up to me and stuck her head through the dugout in the back and said "Hit me a home run" and it was my first home run ever in the Mustang League and I knocked it out. It was actually my birthday, so I got to go to the candy store and get a pound of sour candy.

ERIC CHAVEZ (3B, Oakland A's): For me, my dad told me every time that I hit a home run he was going to get me a banana split after the game. So that was my motivation to become a good baseball player.

REPORTING BY: Graham Bensinger, Jim Caple, Louise Cornetta, Kevin Jackson, Melanie Jackson, Andy Kamenetzky, Brian Kamenetzky, Bob Klapisch, Jeff Merron, Alan Schwarz and John Marvel. E-mail us at e.ticket@espn3.com