Last night was my son’s last baseball game and we were excited to see him play. I had an unpleasant dentist appointment but had picked up my Mom and her sister (my Aunt from Michigan) to come watch. As the proud Papa, I set up our chairs up in the concrete stands by home plate to watch my son play with his team.
It was a surprisingly cool night but the game was exciting. At the bottom of the 2nd inning Joaquin was on 2nd base with the bases loaded and two outs. We cheered him on from the top of the concrete stands and I could hear other parents encouraging the Team. There was so much activity during the game, school children running around the stands, people laughing, a player jumping the fence to retrieve a foul ball across the street – I even hear my Mom yell, “C’mon Wack! Go Wack!” Wack is Joaquin’s school nickname.
As I watched the opposing pitcher prepare his wind up, I heard the screech of rubber on asphalt followed by a loud thump. At the first sound, I immediately looked over to the street behind the backstop and saw the brake lights of a big gray truck screeching to a halt. As the truck’s inertia moved it forward, a white “V” was revealed as it traveled across the street in an unnatural slide next to the truck. In a span of a millisecond, my brain identified the white “V” as the white pants of our baseball uniform, then the red knee high socks attached to black baseball cleats. As he continued across the road, I noticed his light brown hair masking his young face. All sound ceased as he rolled to a stop, sitting up right in the street in his blue baseball jersey. It was one of our younger players who had gone to go retreive that foul ball.
I was already up and running towards the fence when I heard the gasps and screams from the horrified baseball fans – they had seen it too. I was fishing my iPhone out of my pocket to dial 911 as I approached the fence gate. I knew it was locked so I as placed both hands on the top rail of the chain link fence to vault over, I immediately sensed the presence of other people around doing the same thing. Two of them were a doctor and an ER nurse – parents of other boys on the team. I stopped my progress since they could do more good than me so I started to dial 911 when I heard a parent in an exasperated voice giving the street address to a 911 operator. I hung up – no sense in jamming up the lines so I then turned my attention to my 10 year old daughter, my Mom and Aunt up in the stands.
They were all very upset so I did my best to console them. I huddled with Emmy and pulled her little classmate close to me as they began to cry softly. Thank God my Aunt was there to console my Mom. This was such a traumatic event for them to view and I needed to be there for them as the police, fire truck and ambulance showed up. As we looked on there was already a growing crowd of parents helping the young boy sitting upright in the street. Even the Umpires stood in the street blocking/diverting traffic until the police showed up.
After calming Emmy, we went to find my wife Liz who was working the concession stands that game. As we walked over, I saw Liz with the younger brother of the boy struck along with other young school children. Arms protectively wrapped around the children, her maternal instincts were quite evident. Like a mother hen, she had gathered the frightened children around her to comfort them. I left Emmy with her and headed back over to the fence area to move people away and have them sit. We didn’t want anyone else getting hurt unnecessarily while trying to see what was happening.
Then I realized I hadn’t checked on my son Joaquin. I looked to the baseball field and a lump swelled in my throat when I saw him with the rest of his teammates kneeling on the baseball field in prayer. Both teams, had met on the pitcher’s mound, heads bowed. Our Principal, one of our Dads and the other coach were leading the prayer.
As they loaded the boy into the ambulance, it was decided to end the game and play it at a later date. I quickly gathered up my Mom, Aunt then called Joaquin over to ask how he was…
“I want to go check on him at the hospital Dad.”
“Let me take Nana and Tia home and we’ll go.” I responded. “Go get your stuff.”
As I walked to our car with Mom and Aunt in tow, I saw many, many parents comforting their children. The parents were wiping their red rimmed eyes, others with trembling lower lips. But they were strong for their children, friends and community.
While driving to the ER with my son, I tried to keep the parent vomit to a minimum, you know, stuff that just spews out of a concerned parent right?
- “This why you have to be careful”
- “It just takes one moment to let your guard down and get hurt.”
- “Always…Always look both ways.”
At 9pm, we arrived at the ER with Joaquin in his baseball jersey and hat. We were greeted by four visibly upset coaches and our Principal to wait for any news. Joaquin brought his study sheet to review while waiting – I made sure to point that out to our Principal. It was a school night but my son was dedicated to his school work. 🙂
About 45mins later, the boy’s Dad came out with wonderful news. No broken bones, no internal injuries, just some major bumps, bruises and road rash. He was going to be ok and would be released that night. We all exhaled in unison — thankful for the Guardian Angel.
We hugged the Dad and when we tried to leave, Joaquin protested, stating he wanted to stay. I told him we couldn’t do anymore and that it was late. Grudgingly, he agreed to leave. On the drive home, I saw my son finally relax as he began to text his friends the good news about his teammate…and friend.
As we entered our home, I told him to brush his teeth and go to bed, but not before I called him over and enveloped him in a big Dad bear hug. Hot tears filled my eyes and I told him how proud I was of him for the concern he showed for his team mate and friend.
“I love you Papa” I told him – then was immediately hockey-checked as my wife physically removed me from him so she could hug her “bay-bee.” I peeled her off him after about 5mins of seeing him roll his eyes up towards the ceiling. Two minutes into the hug, Joaquin had already dropped his arms. 🙂
As I lay in bed recounting the now surreal event the past evening, warmth filled my heart as I recounted the genuine concern exhibited by such a young man. And of all the caring people in the stands that rushed to the aid of the injured boy and his parents.
I am truly blessed to be part of such a wonderful community filled with Angels in the Outfield.
**Update 4/29/10 — the team mate was released at midnight that same evening. He is resting at home and the doctors basically could not believe this little kid survived such an impact with a truck with only bruises and scrapes. Yesterday, the boys finished the game that was postponed the day of the accident. They won.
The team celebrated at a Burger Joint (Chris Madrids) but on the way home my son asked if we could go visit his team mate at home. I said, “Sure” and we dropped by to tell him the good news of winning.
…and I’m supposed to be setting the example…
I love my boy.