I'm sure everyone has a story like this. I apologize if it's a little sappy, but please stick with me, even if just for the bad puns ("sappy," "stick with me," lol) or the (spoiler!) Freddy Galvis awesomeness report.
I don't know about you, but I love the minor leagues. I always enjoy myself. I particularly love going to see the Reading Phillies, because it brings back memories of my childhood (I grew up in Reading and my family went to lots of games) and the ballpark is very pretty.
Every now and then, Reading has a promotion called "Coal Region Night," where several businesses in Schuylkill County give tickets away for free. A friend of mine has two preteen granddaughters who idolize me for some reason. They think I'm cool. I don't have the heart to tell them that I'm kind of a dork. Anyway, they know how much of a Phillies fan I am, and when they saw free Phillies tickets at McDonaldz, they picked up 4: two for my husband and me, and two so that we could each take our father. We decided to take the preteen girls instead.
These two girls are facing a lot of stress right now. Their parents are going through a messy divorce, Dad is abusive and refuses to support the family, and the girls often have to take care of their twin toddler brothers when Mom is too distraught to handle everything. The girls are 11 and 10. Recently, all four kids have moved in with their grandmother while their mom figures things out. Anyone who knows someone in an abusive relationship knows that getting out of said relationship is a complex and difficult process. Their mom is doing to the best she can, and it seems like she's finally on the right track.
When we told them at the beginning of the week that we were going to take them to the game last night, they were so excited, they kept texting me to tell me how awesome the Phillies are and checking to make sure the game was still going to be played in the heat. I let them borrow my Victorino and Utley shirsheys, I wore my Lee one, and my husband wore his Chooch one. We matched. This winter, when my husband and I went to tour the stadium when it was being renovated, they gave us R-Phils hardhats. The girls wore our hardhats because they didn't have baseball caps and they thought the hardhats were awesome ("and it will protect us from foul balls!")
Anyway, we got great seats on the first base line. We spoiled them with all kinds of ballpark junk food. They thought the various Reading mascots were funny. They laughed when Blooper the dog was introduced to "Who Let the Dogs Out?" ("like seriously, that song is so OLD!") and thought Change-up the turtle looked like a giant sandwich.
They cheered when Freddy Galvis reached on an infield hit (dude is fast!) and scored on a homerun from Fidel Hernandez (who? I dunno. He plays 2B.) They cheered again when Galvis made an incredible defensive play and when he hit an RBI ground rule double. It was basically the consensus between them that Freddy Galvis was the best baseball player they have ever seen, plus the song that plays when he gets up to bat is sick and he's kinda cute. In fairness, Galvis did have a nice night, the only time he "messed up" was when he struck out swinging in his third at-bat (he ended up going 3-4 with a few slick defensive plays. I'm officially excited for him as a prospect.)
They screamed and stomped their feet to raise the Noisemeter. They danced for the Dance Cam. They thought it was hilarious when the fake umpire starts dancing with the White Star Tours Traveler. They cheered for Cauliflower in the vegetable race and booed the evil Candy. They booed the umpire when he called the catcher Suomi out at first when it appeared he was safe (he thought he was safe, too, and got ejected for arguing with and later charging at the umpire. We made sure to engage the girls in conversation so they couldn't hear all the cussing coming out of Suomi, manager Mark Parent, and the umpires themselves). They jumped around when the R-Phils won it 5-2.
For the first time in quite awhile, the girls could just be kids. They didn't have to be little mommies to their brothers. They didn't have to be very young confidante psychiatrists for their mom. They didn't have to worry that Dad was going to hit Mom after a loud argument.
They told us right between the end of the game and the Tennis Ball Toss that this was the best night of their lives.
The Reading Phillies have a promotion to benefit R-Phils Charities called the Tennis Ball Toss. Basically, you pay $1 for a tennis ball with a number on it and try to do one of three things with it: land it in a hula hoop on the field, be the closest ball to the flag on the pitcher's mound, or throw it in the bed of a pickup truck driving around the warning track. Out of the balls in the truck, one is chosen at random for a $100 cash prize and a chance to come back to a later game in August to try for $1000.
"My" 11-year-old was elated when her tennis ball landed in the bed of the truck (her sister's bounced out). When her number was read as the one that was picked for $100, she squealed and started crying and immediately called her mom and grandmother to tell them. I started crying myself and made sure that my husband went with her to claim her prize and hold onto the cash until we got home.
The evening ended with fireworks. The girls loved the ones that looked like pink hearts and when they played a Taylor Swift song during the display.
As the girls played Angry Birds on my iPad on the way home, they kept talking about how great the Phillies were and how they can't wait to come back in August and how the Yankees aren't their favorite team anymore even though Justin Bieber wears a Yankees hat occasionally.
Sometimes baseball is so much more than just a game. Sometimes it's an escape from a personal Hell (I find this to be the case for me too). Sometimes it's the best night in a young child's life.