By Craig Muder
As birthday gifts go, this one is going to be hard to top.
Philadelphia Phillies’ slugging first baseman Ryan Howard got a terrific surprise Nov. 19 when his fiancé Krystle Campbell arranged a trip to Cooperstown for his 33rd birthday.
Howard experienced his first visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday, making a five-hour trip from Philadelphia to Central New York that Campbell had arranged weeks in advance. Monday was Howard’s 33rd birthday, and it was clear that his future wife had a special day planned.
Howard, however, had no idea where they were going.
“I’m riding along and all of a sudden I saw signs for Oneonta,” said Howard of the city located about 30 minutes south of Cooperstown. “I had played there in the New York-Penn League (for Batavia) in 2001 when I was in the minors, so I knew about where we were. But I had no idea we were so close to the Hall of Fame.”
But Howard has been close to the Hall of Fame – inside the walls, actually – for some time. He has generously donated several artifacts to the Museum over the years, including a Phillies road jersey he wore during his 2006 National League Most Valuable Player season and a bat he used to hit two home runs in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series.
Both artifacts are currently on display in the Phillies’ exhibit in Today’s Game, the Museum’s showcase for current players and teams.
“Every kid wants to grow up to play baseball, then to win the World Series and some day make the Hall of Fame,” Howard said. “Just to see my bat and jersey – to see all the history here – it’s awesome.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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