Family Day for NFL’s Vrabel

By Craig Muder

Mike Vrabel has a lot on his plate this summer.

There’s his impending free agency as a 14-year National Football League veteran. Then there’s his job on the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, making him a key player in negotiations during the current NFL lockout.

But first and foremost, Mike Vrabel is a dad to 10-year-old Tyler and 9-year-old Carter. So when it came time for Tyler’s baseball team to play in a tournament in Cooperstown, Vrabel knew where he belonged.

“I told the Players Association: ‘I have to take this week off to be with my family,’” said Vrabel, who visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Tuesday with Tyler’s team. “No matter what is happening, I’m not going to put my family second.”

Vrabel’s wife Jennifer joined the tour of the Museum, with Tyler and his buddies enjoying every exhibit – especially Today’s Game, which features artifacts from current players and teams. The team is based in and around Detroit, Mich., although Vrabel and his family live in Columbus, Ohio. Vrabel played college football for Ohio State, which is located in Columbus.

“I played with Ryan Miller at Ohio State, and Ryan’s older brother Gordon coaches this youth team,” Vrabel said. “Tyler really likes the team and will play in about four tournaments with them this year.”

Vrabel grew up in the football hotbed of northeast Ohio, playing youth baseball until about the eighth grade. But he soon morphed into a 6-foot-4, 250-pound tackling machine who starred at defensive end for the Buckeyes before being converted to a linebacker when he was drafted by the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997. After four years with the Steelers, Vrabel played eight seasons with the New England Patriots – winning Super Bowl titles in 2001, 2003 and 2004 – before spending the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He began his work with the NFLPA when he was with the Steelers.

“Young players sometimes aren’t aware of all the history surrounding the game they play,” Vrabel said. “That’s OK, but I think it’s important that they learn it to get a feeling of what the players did who came before.

“I tell Tyler: ‘I may be a better football player than he is right now, but he’s already a better baseball player than I ever was.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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