Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
As I was taking in the atmosphere from the field before the first pitch at the Hens opener, I heard a little girl in front of me say…. ‘Look, Uncle Stevie is on the big screen’. Her voice was so sweet, so pure.. so excited. When I lifted my head and realized who her Uncle Stevie was, it felt like a punch to my heart.
Beth (Machcinski) Hoye and her family were a part of the Toledo Mud Hens pre-game ceremonies honoring her fallen brother. I had not seen her face since we were in a Whitmer classroom some 20 plus years ago.
There were so many people in and around Fifth Third Field, it was loud as they introduced the entire 2014 Mud Hens team. Then in a second, it changed.
As soon as the Toledo Firefighters Pipes and Drums took the field, the crowd fell silent. The deafening music from those bagpipes somehow turned a ballpark full of celebration into an somber outdoor church. It felt like it did across the street on that late January day.
While the music was playing, a woman from the Mud Hens came over and handed a baseball to Steve’s little nephew. Brandon was going to throw the first pitch. What a crazy mixed up bag of emotion was wrapped in a moment; His Uncle’s favorite sport, his Uncle’s favorite day, his Uncle’s second favorite team, behind the Tigers and he gets to play a little catch with a Hen. The one person in his world who would have loved to be on the field with him… Couldn’t be there. He had look down from above.
I don’t know why I did it but I pulled out my phone and took this picture at that very moment. That’s Beth’s face on the lower right.
Brandon went out and threw a Dan Quisenberry style sidearm strike. The pain seemed to ease when that ball cracked that mitt. Fifth Third Field rewarded the pitch with thunderous applause, as loud as when the public announcer reintroduced Mike Hessman to the city of Toledo.
It was the perfect balance of honoring a life and celebrating the game of baseball.
If you listened really hard, you could hear Steve yell ‘PLAY BALL!!’
You can see Jeremy Baumhower’s words every week by picking up a copy of the Toledo Free Press. You can reach him directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org