Everyone needs a friend like Mark.
“Headed your way tonight. Breakfast?”
His text caught me completely by surprise.
Mark once took me on an epic Spring Training trip. We met Moose, Hosmer, Duffy, Gordo, Seitzer, Wathan, and Brett. Right before I asked George Brett for an autograph, a little boy ran up and acquired his signature. As soon as Brett signed it the boy yelled, “Mom! I can sell this for $200 on eBay!” Understandably, Brett was upset. At least he smiled in our picture. Mark gets credit for all the photos I have from that trip.
We saw Alex Gordon hit a home run against the Giants and played long toss in a field near the complex. Mark’s glove broke on the last throw; the ball popped him in the chin.
On the day Sungwoo threw out a first pitch, Mark grilled for me and Dad in the parking lot of the K. He had the food ready to go by the time we pulled into the stadium. He is one of the best tailgate grillers in the world.
After I played catch with The Rookie, Mark talked to me for about half the drive home, helping me stay awake, filling me in on life’s latest adventures.
Mark is an early morning person. He loves those quiet pre-sunrise moments, sipping coffee and thinking about the wonders of life and family.
Mark is one of the few people for whom I’d wake up at 5:45 to meet for breakfast and catch.
He asked me to bring a glove for him to borrow; I knew he’d love the new Wilson. He told me stories of his latest delight, helping umpire games for kids in KC.
“I love it! It’s purely volunteer work and any time parents complain I tell them we could always use more volunteers.”
There is a reason no baseball games are scheduled for 6:30 AM. I made so many bad throws, but Mark just laughed and kept tossing the ball back, even as the rain started to fall. Mark is an old soul who smiles and finds the silver lining through all of life’s struggles and trials.
He asked me questions and listened to my rambling stories and radiated encouragement and joy. He complimented my work on America at the Seams and made me laugh with his own stories.
Mark’s scheduled to come back to Springfield this fall when his daughter returns to MSU. I’m hoping we can have another game of catch, not in the rain, not at 6:30 AM, but long toss on a baseball field. Maybe I can try and grill for him as a thanks for all he’s done for me.