#BeYourOwnIcon: Shaun Cunningham


Shaun Cunningham and Costa Sunglasses

In a matter of seconds, one’s life can change in an instant. Shaun Cunningham knows this all too well after a baseball bat came hurtling towards his son Landon during a spring training game two Saturdays ago between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves at Walt Disney World.

A photo that has since gone viral shows the father of two sticking out his arm to block the bat, protecting his soon-to-be nine-year-old son from injury.

And in that one moment Cunningham became a hero. Or as we prefer to say – an icon, epitomizing everything a dad would do to protect their child from danger.

At the end of last week, American Sunglass caught up with Cunningham, a humble, polite 37-year-old captain with the Marion County Fire Rescue in Ocala, Florida, who has received a level of fame thanks to his heroic actions. He has been featured in The New York Times, on “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show” and even did an interview with a newspaper in Germany. “It’s been a little crazy and overwhelming,” he admitted.

Cunningham, a lifelong Braves fan, was at the game with his son as part of a boy’s outing; it was Landon’s first professional baseball game and an early birthday present (he turns nine on March 18).

It was a routine game until the fifth inning. That’s when Landon snapped photos of the action on his dad’s phone. As he was texting them to his mother and sister, Pirates outfielder Danny Ortiz took a swing, losing his grip on the bat which went flying down the first-base line straight at Landon’s head.

The Iconic Image

Photographer Christopher Horner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review captured Cunningham’s moment of glory in the iconic image.

The instincts Cunningham currently relies on as a firefighter and once relied on back when he played catcher in high school and college came to the fore. “I did whatever I could to get in front of it, block it, deflect it,” Cunningham told us. “I wasn’t sure how close it came until I saw the pictures on Sunday night.”

His reaction to the photo? “When I first saw it, I got sick to my stomach realizing how close it came to hitting my son right in the face,” he said. “It could have done some real damage.”

But it didn’t because fate – well, actually, a heroic dad intervened. Afterwards, Cunningham said his arm was bruised and discolored for a few days, but that “didn’t keep me from going to work. I’ve definitely been through worse.”

In the process, his son has acknowledged that his dad is his hero. “It is really humbling and proud that he looks up to me like that,” Cunningham said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Importance of Sunglasses

In the image, Cunningham can be seen wearing sunglasses. “They’re Costa,” Cunningham said, adding that they are more than just for show. “I’ve worn a lot of different brands, Oakleys and Ray-Bans, but I’ve found Costa has given me the clearest vision from sunglasses that I’ve experienced. I use them for fishing. I have light-colored eyes so when I’m outside I’m sensitive to the sun. They help me with the glare and brightness and definitely with the clarity.”

While it’s impossible to say whether the sunglasses helped Cunningham block Ortiz’s bat, they certainly did not hurt.

And that means, he and his son Landon will have many more outings to the ballpark for years to come, though it’s nearly certain that none will be as memorable as their first.

Now it’s your turn to step up to the plate. Channel your inner-Shaun Cunningham by checking out our line of Costa sunglasses and show that dads can not only be cool, but heroes as well.

Words of an Icon:  “I couldn’t ask for better kids and they definitely mean the world to me and I’d do anything to protect them.” – Shaun Cunningham