Getting the word out, Union's Califf perfecting his pitch

Posted: June 11, 2011

Two-year-old Jude Califf sat at the back of the gym and recognized his father, Union defender Danny Califf, up on the stage.

He told his grandmother he wanted to go up front. So Jude's mom picked him up, marched straight to the front of the room, and plopped Jude down right next to his big sister, Paige, and right in front of his father. Califf was reading on Friday afternoon to nearly 420 students of Indian Lane Elementary School in Media as part of a program to encourage kids to read.

The real question is: Would you recognize Danny Califf if you saw him on the street?

In its second year as an expansion franchise in the MLS, the Union's popularity is growing, which has team leaders such as Califf doing work to further the team's exposure.

The Union is Philly's fifth-most supported team, according to Califf, behind the four major sports teams.

"I think we could possibly move in . . . close behind the Flyers," Califf said. "At the end of the day, it's a football town, then a baseball town, then a hockey town, and so we probably come in somewhere behind that.

"I think it's been great. The city has really, really embraced us. You get recognized when you go out into the city. That's almost unheard of for the MLS and to be playing soccer in the U.S."

As he is, Califf is pretty distinguishable with his long hair, thick sideburns, and visible arm tattoos that extend to his wrists.

Califf added that it was "part of his responsibility" as one of the team's leaders to get the players out doing charity work.

On Friday, Califf was at the elementary school two of his children attend. Paige, 7, is in first grade, and Blake, 5, is in kindergarten. And the afternoon's main event was Califf reading his favorite childhood book to the school: The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

"When you have kids, you kind of lean in that direction," Califf said of his community work.

"I guess I'm relatively recognizable," he added, pointing to his tattoos. "It's been fantastic just between this and some of the hospital visits to be able to get out there and meet people and get them more aware of the Union and soccer in this country."


Contact staff writer Tim Rohan

at 215-854-4550 or trohan@philly.com.

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