October weather in August. Cool and drizzly and mid-60s and a north wind. At least until next week when the forecast is 90s and the return of the dry air coming in from the south. Springfield weather is just weird.
I sat in the van at Nichols Park and simply stared at the field remembering the miracle I had witnessed from my last season playing baseball. One of my friends almost died on this field. I was supposed to pitch the second game of a varsity / junior varsity doubleheader and he was supposed to be my catcher. He suffered a heart attack during the varsity game and had to be shocked back to life multiple times on the way to the hospital. I see this friend regularly now and am thankful for the simple lesson his life teaches: Live each day to the fullest.
The drizzle dotted my glasses as Judd stepped out of his car wearing a World Series Champions Royals hat and a “Do You Believe in Miracurls?” t-shirt. Immediately, I remembered the conversation I had with Moonlight Graham (Day #207) who is playing a game at the Field of Dreams tonight.
Judd turned his love of uniforms and logos into a simple hobby, creating sports memorabilia on mini football helmets, which is turning into a rapidly growing business.
“What former player or huge fan wouldn’t want a fun keepsake?”
He does both custom and creative design work.
“I recently did a Beatles helmet. The stripe down the middle was a few notes from Hey Jude.”
His sons played baseball, the younger one is a southpaw pitcher at Southwest Baptist University, and his daughter plays volleyball. During one travel baseball tournament, he was visiting with a gentleman who was there in support of the other team. They talked and laughed and introduced themselves as the game started.
“It was Freddie Patek. He was so kind, so generous. I knew he was drafted by the Pirates, so I mentioned that and he told me that Roberto Clemente and Clemente’s wife used to call and check on him and his wife every day when he was a young player.”
We talked about Brett and White and what it means to be Raised Royal.
“I’m the kind of guy who visits the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and watches the introductory video and gets tears in his eyes every single time.”
I nodded my head. “Me too.”
Judd is a knowledgeable fan whose passion for the game is matched by his passion for faith. We jumped around sharing stories of baseball and faith, talking long toss and epic outfield throws (tip of the hat to Bo Jackson) and ESPN 30 For 30s to international missions experiences.
He dreams of making a trip to Cooperstown with his family, catching a Yankees game on the way up and a Red Sox game on the way back.
In this digital era, where friends are often defined by clicks and likes and retweets and shares, it was an absolute delight making a new friend by tossing a baseball.
Good luck tonight, Fort Dodge Gypsum Eaters!