Let’s be honest for a moment: as adults, we take sports too seriously. I know I am just as guilty as anyone else. You have seen my rants about Ned Yost, right? Because we take something like baseball seriously we sometimes forget that it is a kid’s game being played by adults. We forget that most of us fell in love with baseball as kids. But we do have reminders every now and then that take us back to when we were kids and just loved the game blindly. That reminder came to me this week as my son got to meet his favorite baseball player, Billy Butler.
I feel like I need to tell the back story of how this came to be. For the first time in quite awhile, the Royals Caravan planned on making a stop this year in Emporia. I found out about it and planned on getting my son’s baseball cards signed, since the event was going to be held while he was in school. Honestly, I hadn’t thought the whole thing out yet. One of my close friends, Scott, called me later that day, asking if I had heard who all was going to be here for the signing. While discussing it, he made a great point-as a kid I would have done anything to meet my favorite player, George Brett, and get an autograph. It would have meant the world to me and I would recall that memory still to this day. Why not give Levi that memory? Scott was dead on. I made sure it was okay to take him out of school that day, and once that was cleared we were good to go. Except for one thing…
I love surprises. Plus, I knew if I told him what we were going to do, he would be worthless at school that entire morning. So instead, we told him he had a dentist appointment that day, which would be why I was taking him out of school. So instead of him bouncing off the walls leading up to that day, I got to hear him complain about going to the dentist. It was great! Everything was set and I went to pick him up at school. Once we got into town, I turned on a street that leads to Bruff’s Sports Bar & Grill, which was holding the event. I handed him his Royals hat and told him to put it on. My girlfriend handed him his baseball cards and told him he was going to need those. Levi still looked completely puzzled, until I told him he didn’t have a dentist appointment. The light bulb went off, and he know knew what we were doing. That moment was priceless.
We pulled into Bruff’s and the parking lot was already filling up. We went inside and waited for the Royals to show up and Levi tried being mad at me that I didn’t let him in on what we were actually doing. Sorry son, I can tell you aren’t mad when you are grinning while trying to play angry. Finally the players(and Sluggerrrr. and Steve Physioc, who I have to believe could play a mean Joker. Smile away, Steve!) arrived and we got in line so Levi could get his autographs.
First was Brian McRae, former Royals center fielder. Levi really didn’t know who he was other than Hal’s son, who he only knows from me talking about him.
Next was Aaron Crow, current Royals reliever. Levi was excited to see him, but we all knew who he was there to see…
I wish I could have gotten a better picture. You can’t even imagine how big my son’s smile was. He had told me later that he wanted to tell Billy he was his favorite player, but he got nervous. Trust me, I totally get it. The one thing I think of in this picture is how creepy Physioc looks. I laugh every time I see this. Sure, my first thought is how happy my son was in this moment. But my second thought was “Physioc could play a villain in a superhero movie. Or chase after people with a chainsaw while only wearing sneakers”. One of those two. I almost lost Levi after this, as he seemed to be floating away on cloud nine. He got to meet his favorite player and got his autograph. It’s probably similar to when I was in Cooperstown. I could have died and I would have been a happy man. Levi was more than happy at this moment.
This is the grin I saw the rest of the day. He has learned from me, as he was insanely careful with his Billy Butler card and made sure it didn’t touch anything else, even the other baseball cards. At the end of the day, I was able to give him a memory that he will remember when he is old and gray. It was my reminder that really we are all still kids when it comes to the things we love. I’ve often been told that I become a little kid again once I am at the ballpark. That’s probably true, as there is just something about being around baseball that makes me happy. I totally understand how Levi felt this past week. He can’t trade away this memory. I’m just glad that I could make it happen. He probably has no clue that I was just as happy as him, only for a different reason. It made my day as well. It was also the best dentist appointment ever!