Growing up in North Alabama, playing catch with my dad was something that I took for granted. When I became a father, I was told a week before my son was born that he would be born with dwarfism but that didn’t stop me from sharing the same passion for the game with him. By the time he was walking, he wanted to throw something to me. It started with small balls that I would throw and he would attempt to catch and then he would throw them back. It didn’t take long for him to be ready to grab a glove and want to play catch with a baseball.
He quickly gravitated to playing baseball and I decided that I wanted immerse him into the game. We had just lost our minor league team in Huntsville, AL, so I went to the next best thing and started taking him around to MLB parks. In 2014, my beloved Kansas City Royals went to the playoffs for the first time in 29 years. I remember thinking in 1985, the last time The Royals made the postseason, that I wish my dad would have taken me to the World Series. When it finally happened after such a long time, I knew there was only one option, I needed to take my son. The Royals started out in the Wild Card Game, where they won in comeback fashion. After that game, we decided to follow them until they were finished. Next, we went to Anaheim, where the Royals swept the Angels in 3 games, but something even more special happened that I didn’t realize was going to be a life changer.
We arrived at the stadium before the gates opened and stood in a long line trying to be one of the first in the stadium to watch batting practice. While in line, my 8 year old asked if we could play catch. We had our gloves with us to try to catch a foul ball and I had 2 baseballs to try to get autographs on. With a little nervousness, I pulled one of those brand new baseballs out of the bag and we started playing catch. Of course, since he was only 8, the ball bounced on the concrete several times, so it was in no condition to get autographs on. The next day, he asked the same thing, so I naturally pulled out the scuffed ball and we played catch. We wound up going to almost every game that Post Season and by the time it was over, we had played catch in Anaheim, Baltimore, San Francisco and, of course, Kansas City.
In 2015, we were preparing to go to Chicago to catch a game, so I pulled my baseball bag out to get it ready when I saw that baseball. It struck me that we had played at 4 stadiums with the same ball, so why not keep it going. In 2015, The Royals went on another magical run, but the magic for me came from a special ball. By the time the Royals won the World Series, we had played catch with the same baseball at 12 stadiums. I thought that was a pretty amazing accomplishment, but we decided that we needed to do them all. We made one rule, we had to be in the vicinity of the stadium while we were going to watch a game. We planned trips when teams in the general vicinity were all playing on the same weekend to try to get as many as possible. We went on side trips to minor league stadiums. We went to landmarks like the Negro Leagues Museum, the Field of Dreams site in Iowa and even the Indy 500. Most of the time, we played catch in the parking lot of the stadium, but occasionally, we would play in a field across the street. One of the coolest was across from Yankee Stadium, where the original stadium sat. We played catch at home plate of the House where Ruth Built. Occasionally, we got to play on the warning track at the stadium as some of the teams heard about our journey.
It took us 6 years traveling the country, but on July 4, 2019, there were more than fireworks at Dodger Stadium, we played catch with our baseball at the final MLB Stadium. It was an awesome experience, we got to play catch on the warning track behind home plate. That day, we sort of retired the ball to our mantle in a protective case. It is always a discussion topic about why there is such a dirty baseball sitting there. Now you know the story.
We will bring it back out as new stadiums are opened. We are planning a trip to the new stadium in Arlington in 2020. One place that I hope to go over the next few years in the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Over the years, we have collected many great pieces of memorabilia such as bats and balls from MLB superstars and Hall of Famers, but this baseball is the only one my wife will allow in the living room as it is the most special one we own. It may be worth pennies to most, but it is worth millions to us.
You can play catch with your son everyday, but one day, you will wish you had one more.