“I just don’t want to talk,” Kim (Day #103) said. “I’m not a speaker or a storyteller.”
The Missouri Sports Hall of Fame hosted its 2018 Sports Enthusiasts Baseball Luncheon at the University Plaza Convention Center today. It was my first time attending the event; I had no idea what to expect.
Two baseball coaches held the doors for me, serving as informal greeters. More than 900 people filled the convention center space. Immediately, I noticed several catch-playing friends:
Bill Virdon (Day #61)
Jeff (Day #24)
Brad (Day #39)
and Ryan (Day #100)
I sat at Table #55 with Ryan which was hosted by Glendale Baseball Players and Parents because baseball brings people together and they were more than willing to make room for a Kickapoo JV player.
The program was incredible. The “Diamond 9 Award” honored “nine individuals who exhibited outstanding talent or made significant contributions at the high school, collegiate, amateur, or professional levels of baseball or softball.” After the President’s Award was announced, six people were inducted into the Hall of Fame including the St. Louis Browns, Rick Ankiel, and Howard Bell.
By luck, I sat at the table next to Fred Buchholz who was a former batboy for the St. Louis Browns. He was the batboy the day Eddie Gaedel was a pinch-hitter. I shook his hand and introduced myself and Fred shared a little about his time with Bob Costas and again I found myself amazed by the serendipitous journey this year has been.
Kim sat at the head table and accepted the induction on Howard’s behalf. Her speech was perfect, filled with laughter and sweet anecdotes.
“Early in his career as a teacher and coach, Howard wanted to quit. Jack Stack encouraged him to give it one more year. Those words made all the difference…ALS is a death-sentence. But, Howard encouraged each of us to concentrate on living fully today.”
By the time she was finished, there wasn’t a dry eye at Table #55.
I kept my program figuring that there had to be at least a couple people willing to play catch in a pinch. I’m ready whenever you are, Rick Ankiel.
After the program, I met with Darrin and Jake. Darrin is Howard’s younger brother and Jake is Darrin’s oldest son. Darrin’s wife, Chrissie, was a classmate of mine at Kickapoo but couldn’t make it to the ceremony because their youngest son, Noah, was graduating 3rd grade today.
The three of us traveled to the fields just a few blocks north of Jarrett Junior High where Darrin and I were classmates. We were there to play catch and celebrate life. He wore a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt; I had my favorite Royals hat.
I brought my old Wilson glove and teased Jake that I had a glove for him to use. After a couple of soft tosses, I asked him if he wanted to keep using it. He smiled politely and shook his head no.
The three of us spread out and Darrin and I started telling Jake stories about when we were his age. Jake is a basketball fan, so I told him of the one season I played basketball. Darrin was the star player on our team. I scored twice in the first game and that is still the best basketball game of my career. The picture below is to make Jake smile. At least I’ve got on cool tall socks.
We reminisced about our old Park Board baseball team, a team that had some pretty good skills, and I immediately remembered one story.
I was the starting pitcher and Darrin was at shortstop. After a couple innings, our team had opened up a pretty big lead, and coach switched us. As I handed Darrin the ball, I heard the opposing coach shout out, “First the bald guy, now the big guy! Come on!” And as Darrin threw his warm up pitches, I hid my face in my glove and laughed.
I hope that Jake was entertained by our stories. I loved connecting with Darrin on this day that we remembered and celebrated Howard’s coaching legacy. Darrin told me that he was raising his boys to be encouragers.
“You simply never know how your words will impact someone.”
After we took a selfie, Darrin shook my hand and gave me a hug.
“I just want you to know I love what you’re doing. There’s beauty and power in its simplicity. Jake and I are thrilled to play catch with you, to be a part of this project. Thank you so much.”
For the second time today, my eyes teared up. At least I could blame this one on allergies.
Thank you Daniel and KOLR-10 for sharing my story this morning!