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Smith Column: The community shows support for Ryan Duffy

February 13, 2011

Ryan Duffy stops to give autographs to young fans after a 2007 baseball game. (Submitted photo)

By DANNY P. SMITH
Sports Editor
sdnsports@bellsouth.net

It's amazing to see how the Mississippi State athletic family responds when one of their own is in need.
That has been the case the last several months for former MSU baseball player Ryan Duffy.
Duffy sustained a broken neck during a summer swimming accident in Florida and is undergoing rehabilitation at his home in Malabar, Fla.
Since the injury to Duffy, there have been several fundraising projects to help him and his family with medical expenses.
It all started in the fall when the "Do It For Duffy" bracelets were made available and the latest came Saturday during the First Pitch/Meet the Team celebration at the Palmeiro Center.
Part of the festivities included a silent auction and live auction, featuring numerous baseball and Mississippi State items.
Some of the specific things that were auctioned off by Ron Hartness, who many know as the voice of the Volunteers at Starkville Academy athletic events, were a autographed jersey by Baltimore Orioles manager and former Bulldog Buck Showalter, autographed jersey by former MSU player and major leaguer Rafael Palmeiro, an autographed All-Star jersey by David Price and an autographed football by Peyton, Eli and Archie Manning.
Also, nearly 250 participants were on hand on a chilly Saturday morning for the "Do It For Duffy" 5K run/walk.
Approximately $15,000 was raised during the 5K run and additional $15,000 or so was collected during the auctions for a total of somewhere between $25,000 to $30,000. That was a pretty good day's work for a good cause.
All of the proceeds from the event go to the Duffy family.
"It's been tremendous the out-reach that people have had toward him and trying to help him out," MSU senior Ryan Collins said. "There has been so much going on that it really does show the love and affection that people in this program really do have."
Those same thoughts were expressed by Bart Gregory, the master of ceremonies for Saturday's program, during some of his comments. The love the Bulldogs showed to Duffy turned out to be the theme of the day.
Everything surrounding the First Pitch celebration was done with Duffy in mind.
There was even a video-taped message from Duffy that brought a tear to the eye for some. It was good to see him and hear his voice.
Duffy became a fan favorite from the moment he arrived on campus several years ago.
Early in his career at MSU, he had a ritual of turning backflips in the outfield prior to games, kind of like former major league player Ozzie Smith used to do.
Mitch Moreland, a member of the Texas Rangers and former teammate of Duffy's with the Bulldogs, spoke about those backflips and shared other memories to those gathered at the Palmeiro Center on Saturday.
"Anyone who knew Ryan Duffy can say he was the same type of player on or off the field and in the clubhouse," Moreland said. "He made it fun to come to the ballpark."
Duffy became a valuable member of the MSU team, both in the outfield and behind the plate.
It was nice to see the Bulldog Nation come together on Saturday and give back in such a way.
They really did do it for Duffy.

Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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