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Tad Walch: It's the little things: A dad and his daughter meet Utah Jazz player Jeremy Evans at a Utah Flash game

Published: Saturday, March 12 2011 12:38 a.m. MST

After the game, we went down to the catacombs for autographs.

With one short burst of encouragement from me, the brave and spindle-thin Nikki stepped up to and stopped the spindle-thin Jeremy Evans as he came out of the trainer's room. Here was a real-life NBA player, on loan from the Utah Jazz to the Flash for the weekend, and Nikki actually asked him for his autograph.

First he signed Nikki's plastic concussion stick. Then Katie's. Then he bent down from 6-foot-9 to sign Abby's — yes, I had found her not one, but two obnoxious sticks.

"My name," Abby informed him with confidence and a measure of gravity, "is spelled A ...... ."

The pause stretched so long I thought Jeremy Evans would give up on her, on us. Instead, impossibly bent so his head was below hers to sign this silly blown-up plastic stick in her hands, he somehow managed to look UP at her with the patience of Mother Teresa.

".... B ... B .. Y."

Thus was born an incredible new family heirloom, now enshrined in our home.

And the 19-year-old Mr. Evans now has four fans for life. He knows it, too. I told him so; he flashed that bedazzling smile of his.

His five ridiculously athletic blocked shots and his three astonishing alley-oop dunks — that's why people call him the Human Pogo Stick! — didn't win our hearts.

What won our hearts was four simple letters in ink, written legibly at the end of a long night on an otherwise annoying inflatable plastic stick by a teenager from Arkansas while he crouched like an 81-inch-tall praying mantis.

God bless you, please, Mr. Evans.

As we walked out the doors into the night, I smiled down at Abby. She beamed back at me.

I realized then that I've never once taken for granted how much I love the feel of my forefinger wrapped in her tiny hand.

Smart man.

e-mail: twalch@desnews.com

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