“Did you guys hear that?”
It was the summer of 1994. We were on a college retreat at Glorietta, New Mexico with a group from the Baptist Student Union at then-SMSU. Mercy Me led worship for the week years before I Can Only Imagine was written. Willie still has the autographed CD.
No one replied to Willie’s question. We were all beyond exhausted after an incredibly busy day, including hiking Mt. Baldy. (I love that name.) Sometime well after midnight, we finally stopped talking and turned out the lights to try and get some sleep.
“Seriously, guys, do you hear that noise?”
It was pitch black in the room when Willie asked the question a second time. I actually opened my eyes, not that it does me any good with lights and glasses off. I neither saw nor heard nothing. Again, Willie’s question was ignored.
The third time is the charm. When Willie asked yet again, another roommate turned on the lights the exact moment a flying creature dove over Willie’s face.
“It’s a bird!” Bill yelled.
“No, it’s a bat!” the rest of us screamed. And the four of us sharing the hotel-like suite quickly evacuated. Adjacent rooms heard the commotion and joined us outside, asking what was going on.
“There’s a bat doing laps in our room!”
Eventually, from somewhere, we found a broom and ushered the exercise-seeking bat back outdoors. It took forever to fall asleep after that adrenaline rush.
Willie no longer goes by Willie, except when I yell at him in our random encounters throughout Springfield.
Bill met me on the square for a game of catch followed by a Hurts Donut.
“I’ve got a gift for you,” Bill said.
A Jon Jay autographed bat. “He played with the Springfield Cardinals in 2008. My mom’s a season ticket holder and has been doing some house cleaning. Now that he’s a Royals player, I thought you’d like it.”
I was honored. It’s my first game-used bat. I also thought it was funny Willie wanted to give me a bat.
“It’s been more than 12 years since I last played catch,” Bill said. “I literally had to dust of my glove.”
We tossed the ball with The Tumbler in the background under a beautiful blue sky.
I don’t know where the question came from, other than it seemed natural to ask it as we caught up on life over the past few years.
“Any new dreams you’re chasing?”
Bill’s new dream is to start a podcast. He has a wealth of experience in radio and audio production.
“Everyone has a story. I’d like to give people a place where they can share their stories. People living in nursing homes. War veterans. People whose stories need to be told.”
So I prompted Bill even further.
On April 9, Alamo Drafthouse is doing a screening of Field of Dreams. Tickets are $10, with $5 from every ticket going to benefit the Miracle League of Springfield. If Bill does not post the first episode of his podcast by April 9, he agreed to buy my family’s tickets to the screening. I promised to keep it to just a family of four.
We shook on the deal.
My goal is to try and play catch with Jeff Houghton before Bill interviews him for his podcast.