Bridget is 7 and loves Olympic softball pitcher Jennie Finch. The young windmill hurler, a friend's daughter, dreams of someday wearing Finch's uniform No. 27.
My idol growing up was Willie Mays, the greatest baseball player who ever lived -- an indisputable fact because my dad and older brother said he was. But, sadly, I never got to wear the Say Hey Kid's No. 24.
I was never good enough to be high enough in the uniform pecking order to choose 24. In my era, numbers usually stopped at 15, and the fatter the kid the higher the number. I grew to hate 15.
Some numbers in sports are special.
Today, Tony Stewart gets to honor his racing idol, A.J. Foyt, by announcing that Foyt's famous No. 14 will be on Stewart's Chevrolet when the 2009 Sprint Cup season opens in January.
Bye, bye, No. 20. Sayonara, Toyota.
That's one of the perks of owning a race team, like Stewart does now: You pick your number; you pick your car.
At the news conference today, Stewart also will introduce the first major sponsors for the new Stewart-Haas Racing team.
A few years ago, Tony Stewart seemed more likely to be calling a news conference in 2008 to announce his retirement from racing stock cars.
Stewart's longtime goal has been to bank enough money to leave NASCAR so he could race only when he wanted -- in dirt late models, sprint cars or midgets. He has wanted to be free to fly around in his jet to watch his championship teams in the World of Outlaws and the USAC series.
The 37-year-old Hoosier owns a pair of Cup championships and 32 race titles. He wants more, certainly, but that's already a solid legacy.
When Stewart races Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- his cherished track located 60 miles from his native Columbus, Ind. -- he will start as the reigning champion and a two-time Brickyard winner.
His future in NASCAR has become long term since earlier this month when he accepted an offer he couldn't refuse.
All reports indicate Stewart was given half ownership of Haas CNC Racing, a team that fields two cars but has no victories and only one top-five finish in 257 starts. Despite such a pathetic effort, the Haas racing operation was valued at $46 million before Stewart's name became attached to it, according to Forbes magazine.
That figure will only go up with Stewart's involvement at Stewart-Haas Racing, and not just because of his driving ability. He's a media magnet like the team never has had, and -- more importantly -- he's a sponsor magnet. Reports are that Old Spice and Office Depot will sponsor his Chevrolet.
Stewart's NASCAR life span now is longer than previously envisioned.
"It is, but it doesn't mean that I have to drive," he said in a conference call this week. "I don't know how long that I'll be a driver, but the good thing is, I've enjoyed being an owner in USAC. I've enjoyed being an owner in the World of Outlaws series, and I have no doubt that I'm going to enjoy this experience of being an owner in the NASCAR Cup Series.
"I've always had an option as a driver of deciding when I retire and doing it on my own terms, and I still have that option. And on the other hand, I have an ownership role, (and) I might stay involved in NASCAR until I die as an owner."
Before Stewart arrived at the Haas CNC operation, its only notoriety was when owner Gene Haas was charged in 2005 on federal tax fraud charges. Haas pleaded guilty in August to one of 11 charges and began serving a two-year sentence in January at a federal prison near Lompoc, Calif., not far from his tool manufacturing plant in Oxnard.
Haas' tool company is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so funding for the racing team never was an issue.
Credibility was, but with Stewart on board that no longer is lacking.
As an owner, Stewart has won championships in other racing series. While that probably won't happen in the next few years with his new Cup team, he will deliver the team its first win next year.
Superficially, it might appear the venture is only about money for Stewart. But if he wasn't confident he could win next year, he wouldn't have accepted the challenge.
The last thing he'd ever want to do is besmirch No. 14.
Jeff Wolf's motor sports column is published Friday. He can be reached at 383-0247 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Wolf's motor sports blog at lvrj.com/blogs/heavypedal/ throughout the week.