Thursday, June 10, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,
I don't care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don't win it's a shame.
For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,
At the old ball game.

I can’t recall if it was the smell of freshly cut grass or the unique sound made when a baseball meets a wood bat, but as we climbed the stairs onto the field it was clear that this was a day to remember.

Like most boys my age in California, I never heard of lacrosse, rugby, or that crazy sport those Europeans call football. I played baseball. Whether it was an organized community game, a pickup game before school at St. Angela’s, Over the Line with my two brothers at the park, or the non-stop two-seam fastballs that hit the garage door over and over and over, I loved the game. As a young kid my heroes were Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey, and Ron Cey. I remember sitting in the stands above Chavez Ravine and taking in Dodger Dog after Dodger Dog, followed by the Carnation Ice Cream, and driving my Dad crazy with continual questions about this player and that.

Fast forward a few years…and then a few more…

This past Monday we were invited to Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, through a special program Brad Lidge runs with Children’s' Hospital of Philadelphia. For those who don’t follow baseball, Brad Lidge is a closing pitcher for the Phillies. He is the one that threw the last pitch in the 2008 World Series that gave the Phillies their first championship since 1980. In a town that has craved a championship for many years, that pitch unleashed a celebration even Dick Clark couldn’t handle. Wherever his baseball career takes him, he will always be remembered in this city as a champion.

Brad created Lidge's Legion in 2008. It benefits CHOP by inviting patients and their families to a game each month. Kate, aka the best Child Life Specialist on the planet, provided us with the tickets and the chance for our first experience at the Phillies' stadium. We arrived at the Diamond Club entrance with a few other CHOP families at 5 PM where the girls received a Lidge's Legion hat, pin, and tickets for the whole family. We then took an elevator down to the basement and followed the basement halls until we could see daylight. Up the stairs we went, passing the visitors’ dugout on the left and finding ourselves standing on the field in the midst of batting practice.

We knew the field visit was part of the night. I even asked the kids to take a second and breathe in the moment, because this old man had never stepped foot on a major league field and didn’t expect to again. It was something special. Now despite all that fatherly advice, within seconds I was ten years old again standing in the land of giants. Just a few feet away from us were today’s heroes Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino, each smashing balls into the outfield. And off in the distance was the familiar face of Davey Lopes, the Phillies’ first base coach. It was a thrill for all of us as we looked around the stadium, took photos, pointed out the players, and even kneeled down into the dirt just for the experience.

That was enough for us until Brad Lidge walked up. One by one he talked to every child and their families signing anything from baseball card after baseball card. He could see this was important to the kids and was in no hurry to move along. When he got to us he said hello, asked how we were doing, took pictures, and signed souvenir baseballs, hats and even Maddie’s Phillies shirt. After about 30 minutes he double checked with each family to ensure they had a good time and told them to enjoy the game. Off he went to play Major League Baseball and off we went to our seats, still a bit in shock and instant fans. Kind, gracious, and welcoming are not the words typically used for today’s sports stars, but Mr. Lidge had them all.

We soaked up the whole experience from the dollar hot dog night, laughing at the Phillies Phanatic, cheering on the team, and singing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” at the 7th inning stretch. Unfortunatley, the Phillies lost in a nail biter, but it did not matter. We had a great time.

Back in February I shared a story titled Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley. It spoke to the feelings one has when they learn their child has a disability and compares it to getting on a plane to Italy only to find yourself arriving in Holland. One of my favorite sections from the story is:
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around....and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips.
As Maddie and I walked hand in hand to the car, we turned to admire our adopted home team's stadium one last time and talked about our great night. As I picked her up and jogged to the car, I wondered what Italy must be like this time of year and wished we could turn the plane around and land in Rome like all the other tourists. But just then I heard Maddie’s laughter and suddenly all I could see were windmills and tulips lining our path forward.  I'm sure Italy is a nice place to visit, but Holland is all right by me.

Go Phillies!

Credit to: Jack Norworth, "Take Me Out To The Ballgame"

PS: Brad Lidge is the Man!!


  1. Tears, of course, but tears of joy for you all and your incredible night at the ballgame. There really are still heroes among us :)

  2. Probably my favorite blog so far. It is so reassuring to hear that there remain a few individuals who realize just how much of a long lasting impact they can have on not only three wonderful kids and their parents, but everyone who still believes there are good people out there. Nicely done Mr. Lidge, and nicely done Matt & Donna!

  3. AWESOME story! That is so cool! Thanks very much for sharing!
    2 awesome posts in ONE week...what a treat!
    Please keep the good stuff coming!
    The Sharps

  4. Is that a baseball in Carter Crowley's hand?

    My heart is breaking.

  5. Brad Lidge got a save today. I think Maddie and Emma brought him luck.

  6. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces.

  7. People will come Matt. The one constant through all the years, Matt, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Matt. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Matt. People will most definitely come.

  8. Well, you know I... I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Matt Crowley. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?

  9. It truly was a Field of Dreams...

  10. Reggie Jackson
    Every hitter likes fastballs, just like everybody likes ice cream. But you don't like it when someone's stuffing it into you by the gallon. That's what it feels like when Nolan Ryan's thrown balls by you

  11. Guys ask me, don't I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?

    Tommy Lasorda

  12. A German immigrant named Frederick William Rueckheim invented Cracker Jack. Rueckheim came to Chicago in 1872 to help clean up after the famous Chicago fire. He also worked selling popcorn from a cart. Together with brother Louis, Rueckheim experimented and came up with a delightful popcorn candy, which the brothers decided to mass market. Cracker Jack was first mass-produced and sold at the first Chicago World's Fair in 1893. (The Ferris Wheel, Aunt Jemima pancakes, and the ice cream cone were also introduced at the event.)

    Happy Fathers Day Matt

  13. What is both surprising and delightful is that spectators are allowed, and even expected, to join in the vocal part of the game.... There is no reason why the field should not try to put the batsman off his stroke at the critical moment by neatly timed disparagements of his wife's fidelity and his mother's respectability. ~George Bernard Shaw

  14. Lopes spent nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their regular second baseman. Along with Steve Garvey (1B), Bill Russell (SS) and Ron Cey (3B), they formed the longest running infield in baseball history, which stayed together for eight and a half seasons.

  15. Michael Squints Palledorous walked a little taller that day. And we had to tip our hats to him. He was lucky she hadn't beat the CRAP out of him. We wouldn't have blamed her. What he'd done was sneaky, rotten, and low... and cool. Not another one among us would have ever in a million years even for a million dollars have the guts to put the moves on the lifeguard. He did. He had kissed a woman. And he had kissed her long and good. We got banned from the pool forever that day. But every time we walked by after that, the lifeguard looked down from her tower, right over at Squints, and smiled.

  16. Roy Hobbs: Pick me out a winner Bobby.

  17. Vin Scully: And you know Steve you get the feeling that Billy Chapel isn't pitching against left handers, he isn't pitching against pinch hitters, he isn't pitching against the Yankees. He's pitching against time. He's pitching against the future, against age, and even when you think about his career, against ending. And tonight I think he might be able to use that aching old arm one more time to push the sun back up in the sky and give us one more day of summer.