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The story behind Jason Bartlett's and Matt Garza's blue bracelets

Big League Stew

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Athletes wearing rubber bracelets in support of great general causes is nothing new.

But if you're watching Tuesday night's ALDS Game 5 between the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, try and check out the light-blue bands worn by pitcher Matt Garza(notes) (left) and shortstop Jason Bartlett(notes). They're wearing them in support of one specific person, a 1-year-old boy they barely know.

That's right. As reported by Gary Shelton in a great St. Pete Times column on Tuesday morning, Bartlett and Garza wear the bracelets to remember the strength of Landon Harrington, a Tampa Bay-area toddler who is blind and has cerebral palsy.

"Landon Timothy" and "Mr. Strong" are printed on the sides of each bracelet.

So how did the two players become aware of Landon's story?

Turns out that his mother, a woman named Michelle Morales, is a huge Rays fan. She met Bartlett at an autograph signing at a cell-phone store and Garza before a game at Tropicana Field. She told both players about her little boy — who wears Rays shirts during games and even sports a blue Rayhawk —and gave them the bracelets she ordered over the Internet.

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Morales really didn't expect that either Bartlett or Garza would wear the bands, but one night she had to go back and look at her paused DVR to make sure she saw what she thought she saw during a game — Bartlett was wearing Landon's bracelet on his right wrist.

"It was so exciting," Morales told Shelton. "I got goose bumps. It was the coolest thing."

Bartlett, a father of a 2-year-old son, met Landon at that autograph signing and says he's honored to wear the bracelet every day, whether he's playing in a game or not.

"When I look at it, it puts a smile on my face," said Bartlett, 30. "I think about how blessed I am. His mother said he will remember it all of his life. I know I'll remember it all of mine."

All in all, it's a very cool story you should go read. Bartlett and Garza weren't obligated to wear the bracelets, but using their position to show support for a brave little boy and his brave mother who's raising him — as well as raise awareness for Landon's special needs — definitely says a lot about them.

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