Results tagged ‘ Pittsburgh Steelers ’

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.

Legendary visit

Francis_90.jpgBy Bill Francis

As founder, chairman and CEO of Legendary Pictures, Thomas Tull has been responsible for some of the most popular films of the past half dozen years. So maybe it’s appropriate that the first movie produced by this baseball fan’s company was Batman Begins.

Tull, born and raised in Binghamton, N.Y., less than 70 miles from Cooperstown, visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Friday afternoon with his wife Alba and stepson Bret. During a break in the family’s tour, Tull talked about what brought him to the home of the National Pastime.

04-23-10-Francis_Tull.jpg“I haven’t been here in over a decade, which is a travesty,” Tull said. “Living in Los Angeles it’s a little tougher, but I was in New York on business and just thought with the start of the season and everything that I had to get over here.

“For me, it’s the connective fabric between the past, today and the fact that you guys are such amazing custodians of the game. Baseball, I think more than any other sport, has a reverence for the past – records, statistics – and it’s all here under one roof.”

Tull, 39, estimates that he has been to the Hall of Fame 10 times over the years, the first when he was brought by an uncle at the age of nine.

“I remember being excited to see everything but not quite having an appreciation for the plaques and the older players,” he said. “I’ve always been in awe of the Hall of Fame. This place is absolute hallowed ground for me.”

A multi-sport athlete at Maine-Endwell High School, Tull had the rare opportunity to play baseball a few times on Cooperstown’s historic Doubleday Field. An outfielder, he continued his ball playing at nearby Hamilton College, eventually getting a tryout with the Atlanta Braves where, he joked, he was “not quite good enough to get a paycheck for it, so that’s why I keep on hanging around places like these.”

Besides Batman Begins (2005), other Legendary Pictures productions include Superman Returns (2006), 300 (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), Watchmen (2009), The Hangover (2009) and the recently released Clash of the Titans (2010).

“Since I was a little boy I’ve been a total movie geek, so it’s a real privilege to do it. We make movies that I want to see, and when that stops working that I’ll be done with that,” Tull said. “Sometimes it’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time I get to work with some amazing directors like Chris Nolan and Zack Snyder.”

04-23-10-Francis_Nettles.jpgAccording to Tull, who counts The Natural as one of has favorite all-time films, he can see one day making a baseball movie.

“As far as baseball, I would love to do that if I could find the right story. Jackie Robinson is a story I think needs to be told,” he said. “I would love to make a baseball movie if we could find the right story just because I’m so passionate about the game.”

A Yankee rooter since childhood, with third baseman Graig Nettles a favorite, Tull is also a football fan and part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I love sports and I’m unbelievably fortunate,” Tull said. “I sometimes feel like I’m Forrest Gump, like I just kind of wander in. It’s pretty great.”

Though his allegiance lies with the Bronx Bombers, and he makes it to as many Yankee games as possible, he does have season tickets for the Los Angeles Dodgers “just because it’s baseball and it’s in town.”

As for why baseball still has this pull on him after all these years, Tull explained that “every spring I walk near a field and you can smell the dirt in the air. There’s something unbelievably poetic about it in a way.”

Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers