It was almost too perfect. When Ryan Howard approached the plate with the bases loaded on August 12, 2016, no one thought it would happen.
It was Wall of Fame night. It was Jim Thome induction night. The Phillies slugger of the past was being immortalized on the Phillies Wall of Fame, and there was no chance that that Phillies slugger of present day (or more recent past, to be honest) would do something so insane, so absolutely storybook, as to hit a grand slam.
He got to the plate. He saw just two pitches from Rockies pitcher Jon Gray. The first was a 96 mph heater that Howard took for a ball. The second one, just over 95 mph, connected with Howard’s bat.
There was no titanic bat flip, though he’d earned it. Howard just dropped the bat immediately, because he knew he’d jacked it out of the park. It landed in the Rockies bullpen.
The response from the crowd was enormous. But the response from Jim Thome and Bobby Abreu, who were watching from one of the club boxes, was even better.
Thome raised his fist. Abreu clapped and then stood, raising both hands above his head in a salute. Thome could only stand, clap, and laugh. He celebrated with his son. It was better than a storybook. It was better than a movie. It was real life, and in Ryan Howard’s last season, you can only hope that real life is as good as a story or a movie.
Oh lord here come the tears. Okay, I’m crying now. I LOVE YOU, RYAN HOWARD.