Last night, I had an opportunity to do something special for a little UTEP Miners fan. Our radio station, 600 ESPN El Paso was the game sponsor for the UTEP/FAU men's basketball game at the Don Haskins Center, and I was asked to receive a basketball signed by Miners head coach Tim Floyd on the court during the first media time out. I have participated in the radio station sponsor night before, so I wanted this one to be more special. That's why I took my three year old son, Joel on the court with me to get the basketball.

Ever since we first moved to El Paso in 1978, UTEP Miners basketball has been a way of life. My dad purchased season tickets to the games the following year, and I hardly missed a home game for the next ten years. I always looked forward to those basketball games and our two seats in section A. I wanted my son to have the same type of relationship with local sports that I was fortunate enough to grow up in El Paso with.

Steve Kaplowitz.

Obviously, working in the El Paso sports media has its privileges. You can attend every local sporting event and receive access to the players and coaches that otherwise would be impossible. Joel has spent his early years watching UTEP and El Paso Chihuahuas games, but instead of idolizing players, he has grown attached to their mascots. Paydirt Pete and Chico are his two favorite sports people, and he cannot attend a game without talking to both mascots and telling them how much he loves them.

Last night, as we were getting ready to accept the signed basketball, Joel was asking me when he would get a chance to say hi to Paydirt Pete and hold his pick? Before I could answer him, the first media timeout was called and we were on the court getting ready to be introduced to the home crowd. UTEP Athletic Director Bob Stull made the presentation and my son's eyes lit up as soon as he accepted the signed ball. Immediately, he asked me if he could play with the basketball when he got home, and if it would fit in his little hoop in our backyard. "It was so nice that Bob gave me a basketball. It was a very nice gift," he said to me as we left the game. Joel kept the ball next to him last night as he slept and had it first thing this morning when he woke up.

It is hard for a three year old to understand the concept of sponsor night at a college basketball game. However, the memory of being on the Don Haskins Center court and receiving a ball from Bob Stull is one moment that he will not soon forget. I know my dad was watching it from heaven with a big smile on his face.