An unexpected note from a stranger convinced a family that baseball can be a magical game.
Some nights seem destined to turn out one way and then—BOOM—something unexpected happens and you end up having a night you never could’ve imagined. That was my evening last night at Comerica Park in Detroit.
And it was all thanks to the kindness of a stranger who was sitting behind us in section 329, row B—an anonymous friend who helped remind me, even during the drama and fervor surrounding the World Cup, that baseball really might be the most magical game of all.
Here’s what happened—My wife, mother-in-law, and I took my seven-year-old daughter and my two nephews to see the Detroit Tigers face the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was ideal weather for a night game. Our upper box seats gave us a gorgeous panoramic view of the field and the Detroit skyline. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect night for baseball.
And then Justin Verlander gave up five runs to the Dodgers in the first inning.
OK, maybe this won’t be a “perfect” game, but… what? The Tigers got back five runs of their own in the second inning? Crazy. And then calls were overturned by replays, the bases were loaded constantly, the Dodgers were going through pitchers like Spinal Tap went through drummers, and then the Tigers kept scoring almost every inning thereafter until, by the fifth inning, the Tigers were beating the Dodgers 12 to 5. (They’d go on to win the game 14 to 5.)
The turnaround seemed unbelievable. But, little did I know, the evening’s REALLY unbelievable moment would have nothing to do with what was happening on the field.
As the fifth inning drew to a close, a couple in the row behind us tapped me on the shoulder. They said “The man sitting next to us told us to give you these after he left.” They handed me a stuffed tiger for my daughter, a souvenir baseball for my youngest nephew, and a note for my wife and I.
This is what it said:
“Thanks for teaching your kids the greatest game ever.”
And here’s what he bought our kids:
All of us, parents and kids alike, were completely stunned. “Really?” my daughter asked. “He did that for us?” We craned our necks around, but he was gone. We hadn’t even talked to the man. The people who were sitting next to him shrugged. He’d just been sitting next to them, apparently, all on his own. He’d exchanged a few words with them about Alex Avila’s swing, but that was it. They knew nothing else about him.
My one nephew brightened up immediately. Holding the souvenir ball in his hands, he wistfully said, “I really wanted to get a ball tonight.” My daughter hugged her tiger—“I can’t believe how nice that man was.”
Neither can I.
The rational part of me wants to come up with a reason WHY he did what he did. Maybe he enjoyed watching children excitedly follow a pretty exciting game. Maybe he appreciated my wife and I doing our best to make sense of the game to the younger kids. OR, and, for some reason, this is harder for me to wrap my head around, but maybe he was just an incredibly kind person. Maybe he had no agenda. Maybe there was no inciting incident that acted as a catalyst for his charitable act. Maybe he was just out for the night, watching his favorite game, “the greatest game ever,” he was feeling pretty good, and he was overcome with the desire to pass that feeling on.
So he got up, went to the gift shop, bought some souvenirs, found a pen, wrote a note, and decided that the best way to deliver his package of goodwill was to drop it off anonymously and disappear into the shadows like Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams. (True story—I did ask the people behind us if they were sure the man wasn’t a ghost. By the end of the game, they were still undecided.)
If you’re reading this, Man Who Was Sitting Behind Us in Section 329, Row B at Comerica Park Last Night, THANK YOU.
Your act of kindness made an already fun night positively magical for my daughter and my nephews. They talked about it all the way back to the car, marveling at what you’d done, marveling at how baseball really might be the greatest game ever, because, thanks to you, they now associate the game with not only excitement, drama, and competition, but also with grace, empathy, and benevolence.
If you ever stumble upon this article, I just want you to know I appreciate the hell out of what you did for my family and I hope to one day pass on as much goodwill as you did last night.