Tate Spaulding and “Some Guy”

There’s not a person in the world that’s seen the 1989 movie Field of Dreams that doesn’t remember the final scene when Ray Kinsella asks his late father, John Kinsella, to have a baseball catch in the cornfields of Iowa. You’d have to have no heart not to tear up watching that infamous scene. I’ve seen the movie twenty times and I tear up even thinking about “the catch”.

I’m not the perfect father to Caroline and Tate or step-father to Anthony, but one thing that I made a promise to myself a long time ago is that if any of my kids ever ask me to have “a catch”…the answer is always YES. In fact, I’m having more baseball catches with Tate now, with social distancing in full swing, than ever before.

But I could not have a catch with Tate when we were in Maui this past Christmas break.  I shared in a previous BLOG that I got in a serious boogie boarding accident trying to ride the waves of Hawaii.  Two broken ribs, concussion, sprained neck, cut up face and a trip to the hospital…I learned that a 50-year old man should watch Hawaii-Five-O reruns rather than trying to keep up with their twelve-year-old son!

But that did not stop Tate from asking me to have a catch the following day…even with me wearing a neck brace nursing all my bruises!  Broke my heart to say no. I told Tate, “Try to find someone else to have a catch with. There are plenty of kids around the pool that you could ask.”

An hour later my daughter visits me in the poolside cabana that the hotel generously gave me while I was laid flat on my back recovering.  “Where’s Tate?” I asked Caroline.  “He’s having a catch with someone on the field next to the pool,” she replied.  I was happy that my son found someone to have a catch.

Another hour goes by and my daughter visits me again…making sure I’m still alive and taking my pain meds.  I asked her again, “Where’s Tate?”  “He’s having a catch with some guy,” she replies.  The “some guy” comment got me a little worried.  No problem with Tate having a catch with “some kid”, but “some guy” got me thinking of the worst-case scenario.  So, I mustered up the strength and walked out of the cabana over to the field where my son was having a catch with “some guy”.

I introduced myself to this man.  “My name is Christian”, he said as he extended his hand to me. “You have a great kid. And he has a killer arm for a 12-year-old.  You mind if I can take him to get a milk shake?”   Christian seemed harmless.  He looked like quite the athlete, so I gave Tate my blessing and went back to my cabana so I could drown in my pain.

Forty-five minutes later my son came back to the cabana to check up on me.  “Dad, do you know who that was?” Tate says with HUGE eyes and intense passion?  “No clue, Tate.  I think he said his name was Christian,” I replied.

“Christian Yelich!” Tate nearly screamed.

“Christian Yelich, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder?  Christian Yelich, the two-time National League batting champion and MVP?” I asked.

“Yup!” Tate said proudly.

Well, I felt like an ass…not knowing who this “some guy” was when I shook his hand.

Later that afternoon, I saw Christian laying by the pool…so I went up to him and thanked him.  “Not many major league ballplayers have a two-hour catch with a 12-year old kid while on vacation”, I kindly said.  I will never forget what this MVP said.  “Having a catch with your son made me remember why I love the game so much. When we play the Rockies this summer, come to batting practice before the game.  Love to see Tate again.”

I was blown away.  Most of us who grow up and become “something” or “someone”, often forget their humble roots.  Success sometimes gets to our heads. But not Christian Yelich. He’s one of the greatest baseball players in all of Major League Baseball and yet he had the humility to hang out with my kid…now that is something special!

Earlier this month it was announced in the Associated Press that the Milwaukee Brewers finalized a 9-year, $215 million deal with my son’s new buddy, Christian Yelich.

“What everyone sees on the field is an MVP, but we have that same MVP when it comes to the leadership Christian brings, the kind of teammate he is and the selfless things he does in the community, many of which aren’t visible because he really doesn’t look for attention,” Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said.

Well, that pretty much sums it up, “…and the selfless things he does in the community, many of which aren’t visible because he really doesn’t look for attention.” Like having a two-hour catch with a 12-year old kid while in vacation in Hawaii.

Tate and I are now Milwaukee Brewers fans (until they play the New York Yankees in the World Series!)

Well done Christian Yelich.  Not for your $215 million dollar contract, but for not forgetting your roots.  And for making my son one of the happiest boys in the world.  Now that is even better than “the catch” in Field of Dreams.  Ray Kinsella ain’t no Christian Yelich!