Then there was Ian.
I mean that’s what the websites say his name was so that’s what I’m calling him. And Ian seems a good name for this kid, too. It’s strong sounding, huh? IAN. Say it. IAN. It’s like a stamp of approval thumping down on your document, a fist bump from the judge.
Last week I had to take a look at this situation in the wake of it making headlines across the universe. But today, we look back at Ian.
Baseball is, for the most part, a wonderfully slow game played at the speed of summer.
There are long pauses and periods of nothing really happening. At times, on certain sultry nights, when the humidity is dangling off the upper deck like a flag dying up the pole, and it’s the sixth inning and the score is zilch-zilch and there hasn’t been a hit since the Civil War, it almost seems as if there isn’t some game unfolding down on the sea of crew cut green grass at all.
Sometimes it seems as if there’s just some space ship carrying twenty or thirty thousand bored and sweaty martians to some exciting destination that has unfortunately stalled out over a field somewhere in America, stranding everyone in the middle of Nowheresville with nothing to do but watch pigeons pop in and out of the overhangs and suck down watered-down Lite beer in plastic cups.
So when Ian did what he did the night that he did it, most people weren’t even watching probably.
While Ian was busy re-inventing chivalry, most people were more than likely reading a banner for a strip club hanging of the back of a single prop bumblebee slow buzzing the ballpark at 4000 feet, or watching the right fielder looking at a seagull eating a gummy worm somebody dropped over by the warning track.
It was last summer at the Arizona Diamondbacks ballpark . It was the fourth inning and the ballplayer holding the third out ball was player trotting toward his dugout when, like ballplayers often do, he nonchalantly tossed the baseball to a row of fans just a few seats from the infield. However, the ball was missed by a gaggle of kids, namely a skinny dude of about 7 or 8 wearing the hat and shirt of the visiting Milwaukee Brewers.
It bumped off his glove and fell down into a bullpen or some other no man’s land.
Still, all hope was not lost. Oh no no no.
Another hand had the ball now, a player or a coach and he too tossed it right back to the same kids above him, the same kids who were clamoring for it, waving their hands and their gloves, trying desperately to appear like a neon bull’s eye, to be the chosen one. Up went the ball, on it’s two-second arc of orbit . The kid in the Brewers gear reached out. He tasted the glory. He took deep hard drags of sweet impending triumph.
He tried with all of his might and every ounce of desperation in his scraggly bones. But it didn’t matter. It just wasn’t his day.
Another kid, a taller/older kid called Ian grabbed it out of the night sky.
Brewer Kid’s face went slack, his quivering pout jamming itself through his face no matter how much he tried to bite down into his lip . I doubt he even knew what his body was doing or how his face was playing out the scene in his guts. How could he have ever known? Or even cared? Here he was inches away from the Holy Grail…the Big League Baseball; t had been right there!; it had been right in front of him, dangling off the feet of a fat pigeon trying to get airborne, just seconds ago…it had been all his to reach out and take and keep forever and ever and ever. It would have been something so cool to hold in his hand and now it was so gone from him that the sting was more than he knew what to do with.
(Btw: yes, of course I get all of this from the short televised clip! How could I not?!)
Ian takes his ball and runs up a few steps out of pure adrenaline and turns on a dime to begin to celebrate his way back down the steps or wherever life was going to take him to in the next thirty seconds or so.
Then he stops.
He notices Brewer Kid back at his seat. He notices how dejected the kid looks, how honest-to-gosh blue he has become in just the blink of an eye.
The play-by-play guys sees this too. He can’t believe his eyes. He alludes to the unthinkable. That boy…is he gonna…?
Ian, just a boy himself/ maybe twelve tops, sees Brewer Kid and without thinking for more than ten seconds, without even enough time to consider any possibility in the world other than cheering up this stranger in the night, he walks down the few steps he’d just climbed.
Then calmly, with more class than most grown men will ever even dream of , Arizona Ian hands that baseball over to Brewer Kid, who seems as stunned as the rest of the world at just how fast things can turn around at a ball game, if we let it.
What a kid.
Your Video/Photo: mlb.com
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