Running back Anthony Dixon grew up playing baseball and dreaming of becoming a major league outfielder. On Wednesday, he snagged the autograph of the greatest outfielder of all time - Willie Mays.
"My dad talked about him all the time," said Dixon, who had Mays sign a baseball and a football glove. "That was cool getting to meet him because (I know) the things he did. He was a great player."
Mays, 81, visited the 49ers facility two weeks after Jim Harbaugh said during a press conference that the ex Giant and Muhammad Ali were two of the people he most wanted to meet. "I don't want anything from him," Harbaugh said of Mays at the time. "I just want to go up to him and shake his hand and tell him that me and my dad think that he's the greatest baseball player in the history of the game. That's all I want."
Harbaugh got a little more face time than that, sitting down with Mays after practice and then introducing Mays to his players.
Alex Smith said he met Mays in 2005 shortly after he was drafted No. 1 overall by the 49ers. The team took him on a whirlwind tour of San Francisco, and one of the stops was AT&T Park, where he sat down with Mays and Barry Bonds. As he approached Mays on Wednesday, Smith heard the hall-of-famer say to Harbaugh, "There's Alex Smith. I wonder if he remembers meeting me." (Smith told Mays he remembered).
Baseball has been a hot topic in the 49ers' locker room recently, and not only because the two Bay Area teams are among the hottest as the playoffs begin. Kyle Williams is the son of White Sox general manager Ken Williams, and the 49ers wideout is rarely seen without a Sox cap.
Smith made national headlines last month when he revealed that the NFL had fined him $15,000 in January for wearing a San Francisco Giants cap that wasn't sanctioned by the NFL during a post-game press conference. The fine was later dropped and Smith was given a warning.
The Giants, in turn, came out in support of Smith and the 49ers, and a hat signed by each of the Giants players has been featured prominently in Smith's locker this week.
Dixon, meanwhile, said he was pulling for the team he grew up watching, the Atlanta Braves, in the National League and the A's in the American League.
His brother, Rashun, is in the A's farm system and spent time with both the Stockton Ports and the Burlington, Iowa Bees this season. Another brother, Deshun, is in the Tampa Bay Rays' farm system, and Dixon recalled that as a prep player he, too, believed his future would be in baseball.
Asked about his batting average in high school, he laughed. "As a senior? It wasn't that good," Dixon said. "That's when I knew I was going to be a football player, you know?"
Photo credit: 49ers.com
-- Matt Barrows