Sometimes the numbers a player puts up during a season for everyone to see aren't the most important thing. What the player does quietly, away from the diamond and out of the spotlight, can actually have a greater impact than any stats.

Consider Reid Brignac. He was supposed to inherit the Rays' starting shortstop job when they traded Jason Bartlett and his $4 million contract to the Padres after last season. Brignac's 2010 numbers at the plate were comparable to Bartlett's. Tampa Bay would be getting a bargain in Brignac for about one-tenth the price. But sometimes, you get what you pay for.

Brignac's season has been pretty grim. Except for one day in July and another in September, his batting average has been below .200 since early May.

"Thank God I play good defense," he said.

But a continent away Brignac has fans who never will judge him by his stats.

Last December, he received a call from Minor Leaguer-turned-Texas businessman Aaron Sisk. He and Brignac became friends when they were infielders in 2007 on the Rays' Double-A team, the Montgomery Biscuits.

Did Brignac have a piece of equipment he could send as a Christmas gift to a boy in Spokane, Wash.? Sisk was calling on behalf of one of the companies that "adopts" needy military families and finds sponsors to gives gifts, or other necessities, to their children.

"The purpose of doing it is to help when they're struggling with cash and other things," Brignac said. "Christmas is an important time, especially in kids' lives. I know I always had presents to open up when I was a kid."

Brignac swung by a sporting goods store in St. Amant, La., where he was born and still lives, put together a package "and overnighted it to the address Sisk gave me so the kid would have it in time for Christmas."

The boy is David Bossio. He was 8 years old last Christmas. The family was not available for an interview, but his mother, Jill, said in an email that she was "pretty much a single mom" to her five children while her husband, Mike, was deployed for 15 months in Afghanistan.

He is at Ft. Lewis, Wash., now, doing medical boards to be evaluated for injuries he sustained from several roadside bomb explosions.

"Money already was tight, so Christmas was looking pretty grim," Jill Bossio wrote. "We were adopted by a wonderful company in Texas" that asked for background on her children. "I have one who really likes baseball. I thought we may just get a glove or something."

What the Bossios received from Brignac, she wrote, was "a signed bat and glove and balls and all the gear you could think of, with a very nice card," enough for David to share with his siblings.

"It was beyond gracious! He turned our first Christmas without Dad from a very sad one to happy for the kids and humbling for me.

"I, of course, am very proud of my husband and everything he does for us. But for a complete stranger to take the time, thought and money to send a military family they don't know ... was breathtaking.

"It brought back some hope for me that people do care about our soldiers and their families and the sacrifices that they make." She called Brignac "an amazing man with love, pride and a heart of gold, and I know my children and I will never forget his generosity."

Bruce Lowitt is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Fla.