Tears filled my eyes as I read Kevin Cowherd's column this morning about the illness of Charlie Zill or Zillbilly, the "country boy" usher at Camden Yards ("Cancer-stricken 'Zillbilly' usher hopes to see 1 or 2 more games," March 18).

Having taken zillions of photographs of Mr. Zill over the years during the 7th-inning stretch, I was sure Mr. Cowherd would need one of them to highlight his tribute to Charlie.

I was completely wrong. Charlie's Zillbilly character has been so admired, loved and photographed by others, including The Sun's photographers, that any pictures I had were superfluous.

No fan has more zest for life than Mr. Zill, even when he is barely able to stand or breathe. He made performing for his club-level audience and nearby fans his priority. He never faltered and was able to "play" his orange violin, flap his arms and dance around to the sheer delight of all.

When Mr. Zill called me Sunday night to tell me that Mr. Cowherd had actually driven to Red Lion, Pa., in order to interview him for an hour and a half, I was very impressed with the writer's professionalism as a sports reporter and columnist.

Mr. Cowherd captured Zillbilly's essence. Charlie and his wife, Trudy, have been foster parents for many years. They now have four adopted children, ages 4, 5, 12 and 13. Their kids are blessed to have such loving and devoted parents.

I hope the entire Zill family will be able to see an Orioles game together when the season starts. In Mr. Zill, the Orioles have had a treasure in their yard whose enthusiasm and drive will inspire the team to another successful season.

Harvey M. Rapp, Columbia

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