By Ellen Bell, AngelsWin.com Staff Reporter
Today, I attended an event for the Boys and Girls Club of Orange County in Anaheim. Matched pairs of kids and mentors came to spend some time in the batting cages and get to meet an Angel superstar. In my opinion, heroes were everywhere in the room. The following is my take on what happened when the baseball hero arrived.
We are waiting. Big kids. Little Kids. All baseball fans. Soon it will be ShowTime. But first, it’s time for batting practice
It’s been awhile since I was here…crowded into sweaty batting cages watching little guys in baseball caps take mighty swings. Grownups are standing by with camera phones poised and ready for a solid hit. Encouraging them after each attempt.
The equipment has changed. Nearby monitors show the velocity and direction of each hit ball and superimpose the trajectory of their efforts onto a digital version of Angel Stadium field. Pretty cool stuff…my son would have loved that.
The technology and the names on the backs of their jerseys may be different, but it’s still the same experience. Little boys with big league dreams, stepping up to the plate.
And then their Hero arrives.
Bigger than life but just as human. The Big Guy seems a
bit uncomfortable, as if he’d rather be back in the cages with the little ones. He was there of course, swinging at baseballs from the age of 3 say his parents. But now it’s a different season. It’s time for him to stand in front of the rest of the kids and be a leader and the most terrifying word of all: a role model.
They ask him questions, eagerly thrusting their hands in the air for a chance that he’ll notice them.
“What did it feel like the first time you played in the Big Leagues?”
“Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?”
“How’s your thumb feeling?”
“What do you eat for breakfast?”
The Baseball Star has been asked countless questions by nameless faces holding microphones. But it’s apparent from his big smile that he’s happier answering these.
Then the little ones take their place in a long line and wait their turn for a handshake, a picture and maybe even a signature on the back of their jersey. The Baseball Star seems to understand why he’s here in the sweaty gym in Anaheim. Sure, there’s a franchise to promote and a sports drink to sell. But this is about the eyes looking up at him, wide-eyed and expectant. It’s about the hope of a kid who can still dream beyond his abilities. It’s about the fact that he was one of them too, not all that long ago.
He’s patient. He’s polite to their Mom. He takes the time to look them in the eye and calls them “Buddy” when he greets them. He makes them feel important.
In an age when sports heroes are allowed to fight with refs, grumble through press conferences, and refuse to sign a child’s baseball, what could be more heroic than that?
The event winds down and the Baseball Hero heads back to the stadium to get ready for the night game. I watch the little one’s as they pile into the family car. They carry their bats and half-empty bottles of fruit-flavored sports drink. But they also take home a new story to tell and a new memory to keep.
About the day they got to meet Mike Trout.