02 July 2007
That's me. With one Mr. Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. Even if you don't follow sports, you might have seen his name since it's been all over the TV lately, as he made history in Comerica Park by tossing a no-hitter, thereby reserving his spot at the top on the news and sports headlines for days to come.
For those of you who don't follow sports and are thinking, "No big deal", let me expound. The last time a pitcher in Detroit had that combination of magic, momentum and talent, the year was 1952, in Briggs Stadium. In 1984, Jack Morris also carved his notch in history, but he wasn't in Detroit when he did it. In the Tiger's entire 106 year history, only six pitchers have accomplished this...so yes, it's a big deal.
But this post isn't about a super-human display of athleticism, it's about an amazing display of an awesome human being.
I mentioned in my last post that my entire family was meeting up for our annual trek to Comerica Park. Following the game, most of them went back to their rooms, while my sister and I decided to look for a livelier end to the evening.
Long story short, we found it.
In an undisclosed location, (so, please, no one mention it in your comments, or else I won't post them) we stumbled upon one of the best nights of our lives.
Obviously, we met some of the Tigers. But what isn't obvious is the fact that when we called our relatives to come down, they sat there and signed autographs and got their pictures taken with them. (Are you recalling that there was a gaggle of us?)
Additionally, my sister's boyfriend, P, said, upon the phone call to the room, "I'll buy everyone in the group a drink if the Tiger's are in the bar downstairs". I've not tasted a beer so good. Why the man would make a bet like that with a girl that watches the Tigers every single night and that can still name the 1984 line-up is beyond me, but again, the beer was great.
When the group arrived en masse, Verlander could have said, "one picture" and then gone on with his night, but instead he made the lives of some kids that now think I'm a little bit awesome. As long as they live, they will recall that night. When Verlander gets inducted into the Hall of Fame, they will speak of that night with cracks in their voices and point to the baseball up on the shelf. Their children will know the story, as probably will their children's children.
There are many professional athletes that despise the fame that comes with it. That snarl at kids tugging on their shirts, baseball in their outstretched hands and hope in their eyes. That curse and wave off the fans singing their praises. That growl at reporters and take only private elevators.
That in one fell swoop can crush a kids heart and make his bedroom, adorned with posters and newspaper clippings of his hero, a place less of childhood and more a place of the first indication of things not being what they seemed when viewed through innocent eyes. Each glance at the tributes of their hero a constant reminder of The Day the Magic Died. "No, kid, I don't sign autographs".
I'm sure it does get wearing; the constant spotlight, when in the beginning, it was all just about a kid with a dream, and none of the trappings that come with it. I can understand how grating it would be--the justifications that probably pass through their minds--just because they spent years and years honing a talent, and beat incredible odds to stand where they are, now they have to answer to so many requests and sacrifice a quiet dinner or a night of anonymity? That part, I'm sure, wasn't part of their dream while they were shooting hoops or tossing baseballs under the moonlight in their childhood yards.
And while Verlander lives at least part of his dream everyday, he and his friends made the dream for a group of people, who now, each year when we meet up at Comerica, will surely recall that evening with laughter and smiles.
Super athletes? You can see them everyday on ESPN.
Super humans? Possibly as rare as the elusive no-hitter. How lucky, that in one month, I've witnessed them both.