Robin in the spring, Sox in the fall

The sun was setting in Glendale, Arizona. We’d been at a spring training game with friends. My buddy was wearing a shirt that read “Giants.” I wore one that read “White Sox.” These were the teams of our distant youth…and, while I’ve always avoided wearing team signage, my granddaughter had given me the Sox shirt.

We’d gone for dinner (Italian, if you must know) and as we walked back to our car, we heard a voice from behind us on the sidewalk.

“Hey,” the intruder called, to me, “I like your shirt.”

On the back of the shirt was “DUNN” — for obvious reasons — and number 32. The White Sox had had a hitter named Adam Dunn, number 32. In our household, we simply called him “Cousin Adam.”

Back to the voice.

Why would somebody creep up behind you on a city sidewalk and say he liked your shirt? Surely, he didn’t want to see me topless! Was there a rush on Adam Dunn shirts…which would be even stranger, considering that Cousin Adam was in Texas, and retired.

“Adam Dunn,” said the voice, “is a great guy.”

That started a 10-minute conversation with Robin Ventura. He was the White Sox manager. He had been in a restaurant when the Adam Dunn shirt went by the window, and he couldn’t resist catching up to share his thoughts about his departed and disappointing slugger.

Nobody recognized the voice, but I did recognize the person, even without his Ventura shirt.

Most of the conversation was about what he could do for us. Were we going to the game the next day? Yes. Did we have tickets? Yes, thank you. The day after that? Yes…and yes. This unexpected generosity continued even after I told him I was once a baseball writer, asking him not to hold it against me.

Clearly, he didn’t.

“If you ever need tickets to a game,” Ventura said, “make sure you let me know.”

Well…

It happened this was one of my milestone birthday years, and my wife intended to take me to Chicago as a gift. She shared her plan with Ventura, who said: “Tell me when you’re coming. Here’s my email address.”

Six months later, we sat 10 rows behind the White Sox dugout at Comiskey Park-cum-U.S. Cellular Field. We sat in the same section the next night, and for two more games after that…courtesy of Robin Ventura.

If he’s not the nicest major-league manager of the many I have met, he’s easily the most generous.

All because he likes Cousin Adam.