In mid-January, Tanner sent me this email:
I read about your story on Cut4 and have since been keeping up with your website. I think it would be awesome to play some catch with you at some point this year!
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Tanner is a sophomore at the University of Missouri where Kaylea is participating in the state music contest this afternoon. I contacted him and asked if he’d be up for catch when he told me he was going home for the weekend — Lebanon. Lebanon is a perfect lunch stop when traveling to Columbia from Springfield.
We found each other at Atchley Park where a junior high game was in progress on one field, but the adjacent field was wide open. Decked out in all things Cardinals, Tanner shook my hand with a smile. I introduced myself as Ethan to hopefully get rid of the “Mr. Bryan” moniker for a few more decades.
Tanner grew up playing ball and even has memories from his t-ball days. He played catch with his 11-year old cousin yesterday, helping him get ready for a tournament in Springfield today. Two days ago, Tanner played catch with a friend at MU. One of his best days on the field happened in 2009, when his 11U team advanced to the championship round of a tournament in Nevada, Missouri. There, they were pitted against a rival team from Springfield whom they had never previously beaten.
“We were down and rallied to win. Then we learned that the winner of that tournament earned an automatic bid to the 11U-AAA World Series in Branson.”
Tanner brought his first baseman’s mitt and we were on a perfectly groomed infield. I asked if he’d care to throw me a few grounders. He positioned himself at first and I did a fantastic job of keeping his stretching and scooping skills sharp.
His favorite player is Adam Wainwright, Uncle Charlie, who is known for his incredible 12 – 6 curveball. I tried my best to throw Tanner a few 12 – 6 curveballs. I’m pretty sure the only reason they dropped, however, was due to gravity.
Tanner also has played catch with Cardinals phenom-catcher, Yadier Molina.
“It was at an exhibition game, St. Louis against Springfield, and it was the end of the inning. I was a few rows behind the St. Louis dugout and held open this glove. Yadi spotted me and tossed a ball right to me.”
“Baseball has taught me time and again that not everything in life is going to go your way. Whenever the odds are against you, you have to keep battling, and trust that all of the hard work you’ve put in will, someday, pay off.”
A business student, Tanner’s dream job is to land a position with the Springfield Cardinals or the St. Louis Cardinals and work his way up to being the General Manager. I know it’s possible; it’s the story of the current Springfield GM as well as the GM for the Cleveland Indians. I think it would be remarkable if that happens. In 20 years or so, I’m going to be keeping my eye on my email hoping for an invitation from GM Tanner to come field grounders and bounce throws to first base on one of the big fields.
Side note: I’ll update this story tonight with Kaylea’s score from the state music contest.
Side, side note: Kaylea caught the cold that I have had this week. She feels horrible.
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Update: For the first time in her high school career, Kaylea did not receive a 1 rating at state. I am not a fan of judges trying to rate and rank music, as if it could be done so objectively. Once we got home, I showed her what Tanner said. Her hard work has already started to pay off as she’s the principal second violinist in her symphony concert Tuesday night. I know things didn’t go her way today and hope it spurs her to dig deep, to continue to work hard, trusting that it will make a difference in college and her future vocation.
For now, she’s chasing Nyquil dreams!