In the presence of a true champion

    Ann Meyers Drysdale
    Vicki Balint interviews (from left) Drew, DJ and Ann Meyers Drysdale. Photo by Karen Barr.

    Yesterday, several members of our staff converged on the US Airways Arena to meet with Ann Meyers Drysdale, the Hall of Fame athlete who is now general manager of the two-time WNBA championship Phoenix Mercury and mom to three children ranging in age from 16 to 23.

    Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint was there to interview Ann for her monthly “A Conversation with…” print Q&A and online RAK Radio podcast. Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams and Photographer Daniel Friedman were there to get a cover shot of Ann and two of her children — Don Drysdale, Jr. (DJ), 23, a communications major at Arizona State University, and Drew, 16, a high school junior in Huntington Beach, Calif., who flew in for the day. (Ann’s third child, Darren, 21, was recuperating from a recent soccer injury and couldn’t make it).

    Audio/video specialist and RAK contributor Rob Turckick was there to assure sound quality for the podcast and get some video footage of the interview for RAK Video. And I was there because, well, I’m the publisher and I get to go along on these things when I want to.

    And I definitely wanted to meet Ann Meyers Drysdale.

    Ann Meyers Drysdale during our interview in the Phoenix Mercury locker room. Photo by Rob Turchick.

    Ann is entering her fourth season as General Manager of the Mercury. Her accolades are mighty: She was the first woman to receive a full athletic scholarship from UCLA. She was part of the US Olympic basketball team in 1976, winning a silver medal. She signed a free-agent contract with the Indiana Pacers — the only woman to ever do that. And she was the first player drafted in the Women’s Professional Basketball League, a precursor league to today’s WNBA.

    Following her career as a player, Ann made her mark as an expert analyst on ESPN, NBC, ABC, FOX Sports and CBS. She has done commentary for men’s and women’s basketball, softball, tennis, volleyball and soccer since 1979.

    In 1986, she married former Los Angeles Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale and took the name Ann Meyers Drysdale. They were the first married couple to hold Hall of Fame awards in their respective sports. Drysdale died of a heart attack in 1993, when her children were just 5, 3 and 3 months.

    These are all things that people will remember about Ann Meyers Drysdale. Here is what I will remember:

    Ann Meyers Drysdale poses with Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, an avid Phoenix Mercury fan who rarely misses a game. Photo by Rob Turchick.

    She is exceedingly gracious. When she entered the room, her immediate task was to personally greet each member of our team and extend a warm handshake. Her kids did the same. They waited patiently as we undertook all the set-up needed for photographs and audio/video recording. (Anne, who is talking with Drew about college options, compared notes with Vicki, who is also in college-search mode for her high-school-age daughter.)

    She exudes calm, unpretentious confidence. I found it both inspiring and soothing to simply be in her presence. You can see how her matter-of-fact, deal-with-what-life-hands-you approach has manifested in her children, both of whom carry themselves with ease and speak thoughtfully, honestly and articulately.

    She is a class act. When all the photos were done and it came time to leave, Ann went back to each member of my team, thanked them (by name!) and extended that same warm handshake. Then her kids did the same. — Karen

    P.S. Look for Vicki’s “A Conversation with…” article in our July magazine.

    Today at RAK: We’ll post the transcript of yesterday’s live Twitter chat on feeding issues on our Web site.