Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Legends Never Die

Sometimes in life, when you least expect it, something so amazing happens that it will become the stuff of future family lore…the story that gets told around the family dinners and passed on to future generations. You all know what I'm talking about, as I am sure that EVERY family has such stories and tales…usually, the tale gets bigger and bigger every time it's told, exaggerated beyond belief, until eventually it becomes legend.

Such is the story that unfolded on Monday of this week, while we we were innocently attending a baseball game here in Fort Myers. Minding our own business, really, not realizing that a memory was about to be made that will never be forgotten. Oh, I'm sure it will get "stretched" a bit in the future…it will get bigger and bigger as it's retold…and that's okay. Because we were there, and we saw it happen.

To set the scene…Hubby and I, along with our two youngest, headed over to Jet Blue Park, the Spring Training home of the 2013 World Series Champions, the Boston Red Sox. We try to attend a Red Sox game every March when we visit Fort Myers for Spring Break, and this year was no exception - except that about 20,000 other people ALL had the same idea, being that the Red Sox are the defending World Champions and everyone else wants to jump on their bandwagon.

In case you had a brain fart and FORGOT who won the 2013 World Series, there were plenty of reminders everywhere at the ballpark...

Several months ago, I had managed to snag some halfway-decent tickets to Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays…our seats were down the right-field line, about three rows back from the field. We arrived at the game about two hours before game time…which is God-awfully early, I agree, but necessary during a Spring Training game, when fans will begin streaming in THREE hours before game time.

Spring Training is very laid back…the players are much more at ease, especially when mingling with the fans. They'll usually take more time to interact with the crowd, giving out autographs, photos, and baseball tips. We decided we would just chill out before the game, soaking in the sun, the laid-back atmosphere, and the beauty of the ballpark. Jet Blue Park is only about two years old, and is a state of the art facility. It's called "Fenway South" - as it's a replica of Fenway Park, up in Boston….

In case you had a brain fart and FORGOT that Jet Blue Park is known as "Fenway South", there were reminders everywhere at the ballpark…they seem to be pretty good at these reminders, it appears….

There's even a replica of the Green Monster out in left field:

It's pretty awesome…last year, we sat on top of that…but it was a little high for me...

We spent some time initially exploring the area that has a tribute to some of Boston's greatest players, as well as a tribute to Jackie Robinson:

Carl "Yaz" Yastrzemski…played his entire 23-year career with the Red Sox…one of my favorite players of all time...

Jackie Robinson…truly a legend, and someone I wish I had been able to see play…

We eventually made our way into the stadium and found our seats…it was nice just chilling out, listening to some great music on the loudspeakers, and watching the Tampa Bay Rays take batting practice. Sitting where we were, it soon became very evident that an awful lot of balls were being smacked into the section of seats right beside us…there was a group of young men hanging out in this section with their baseball gloves, all eager to scoop up a foul ball as a free souvenir. After watching this for a few minutes, I leaned over to our son, Taylor, and daughter, Mikayla, and casually said, "Hey! You guys should be over there - you might catch something, too!"

I didn't really think they would take me up on this…as both are somewhat shy and hesitant…but seeing that the stadium was still pretty empty, and that no one would mind if they moved over a section to scoop up errant foul balls, they soon got to their feet and moved over to the next section. Apparently, Hubby had missed my suggestion, as he soon realized the kids had gone, and seeing where they'd went, he voiced his concerns:

Hubby, in shock: "Wait, what??!! What the heck are the kids doing over there???!!!"

Me: "They're going to try to catch a foul ball."

Hubby, in disbelief: "EEK! MIKAYLA is going to catch a foul ball???!!! Hardly - she's more likely to break her neck!!!!"

Which is somewhat true. She IS a bit of a Klutz…and not exactly athletic, AT ALL. She's more likely to catch a cold, actually, than catch a baseball. But, still…

Me: "Oh, leave her alone. Let her have some fun. Besides, it's not like she'll catch anything. Taylor's over there, too, and he'll make sure to catch anything before it can do any damage to her."

Which is true. Taylor played baseball for many, many years, including playing on the varsity team at high school. And he's 6'5" tall. If a ball was anywhere CLOSE to hitting Mikayla, Taylor can reach over with his long arm and defend her nose or her face. He's got quite a stretch.

Not quite happy with this, Hubby studies the scene a few minutes longer, and notices that Taylor is in Row 1, along with 10 other young men about his age, up against the barrier between the seats and the field…while Mikayla is standing a few rows behind Taylor….

Hubby: "Why is Mikayla standing so far back???!! Why isn't she with everyone else, in the first row??"

Me: "Well, she's waiting for the bounce. Besides, this is GOOD that she's not in the first row. It's less likely she'll get smacked with a ball in her face, because Taylor will snatch anything that's even close to her, with her being behind him."

This is true. At least logically, this sounded very true. Little did I know that this was NOT going to happen.

Sure enough.

No sooner had I said that, when we heard a crack of the bat…and saw a screaming line drive heading right towards us…or at least the next section over.

Hubby and I immediately sat up straight, and I remember saying out loud, "Uh oh. Here we go."

As we watched the ball sail over our heads, heading towards the kids, I was holding my breath. What would happen? Would Mikayla's nose get smashed with a baseball, giving her a 4th broken nose??? Which would mean I would NEVER hear the end of it from Hubby??!! Or would Taylor reach up with his incredible height and save the day???

As the ball arc'd downwards towards the group of eager young men, all straining to jump up and catch it, one of them must have tipped it - so it sailed over their heads, took a bounce right by Mikayla, who then shot out one hand and grabbed the ball. On it's first bounce. She was off balance as she grabbed it, and tilted alarmingly over, appearing to almost topple over the seats, but she caught herself…and quickly righted herself, holding the ball up triumphantly with one arm...

…as the group of young men in Row #1 - including her brother - looked at her in disbelief...

…as the small crowd sitting in various sections close to this section gave her a round of applause - the young 14-year old girl, beating out the 20-year old men, the majority of whom had on GLOVES, mind you, in the hunt for the souvenir…

…and as her parents watched in a state of shock, mixed with a huge swelling of pride.

THAT'S OUR GIRL!!!!!!! I wanted to shout, and blast over the loudspeakers.


Well. The smile on Mikayla's face was pretty much permanently plastered there the rest of the afternoon…it got even better when she gathered up the courage and had Tampa Bay shortstop Sean Rodriguez autograph her ball.

Such is the stuff of lore…the day that our daughter caught a ball at the baseball game.

Beating out men…with gloves. Beating out her 6'5" brother.

And not breaking her neck in the process.



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