Contributing writer As T-Mobile Park came into sight at the end of our
600-mile drive to Seattle, I asked my son which baseball player is his
favorite. Grady is 11 years old, and, because he has been
brought up the right way, he is a huge Red Sox fan. He quickly said “Mookie,” like there wasn’t another
Mookie Betts is clearly a fan favorite, especially
with the kids.
Grady was the happiest boy in the Pacific Northwest
Saturday night thanks to Rafael Devers.
If an election were held to find the most favorite Red
Sox player, the reigning American League MVP would win in a landslide among
fans 12 and under.
It would definitely take something spectacular to
We drove from our home in Butte, Montana, to watch
Games 2 and 3 of the season. They were the first two live Major League games
for Grady. I took him to a few minor league games in Montana over the last
couple of years, but that isn’t even close to the same thing.
He was excited the whole drive, constantly asking “are
we almost there?” We had been looking forward to this trip since Chris
Sale struck out Manny Machado to end the World Series.
We sat nine rows up just off the third base Friday
night, and we got to see a game for the ages. Really, can you imagine a better
Major League debut for a young fan than the game in which Mitch Moreland’s
three-run, pinch-hit home run capped a comeback from a 6-1 deficit for a 7-6 Red
We jumped up and down in the aisle and exchanged
countless high fives with the many vocal Red Sox fans in our section. We hung
around to yell at Mitch as he was interviewed by Guerin Austin live on NESN.
I figured the night could not have possibly been any
Well, the next night topped it.
Grady wore his Mookie Betts jersey to the Saturday
game, but a chilly breeze off the Puget Sound made it was sweatshirt weather.
His grey sweatshirt with our hometown scribed across the front in copper is
nice, but it didn’t say Red Sox.
So, we went to one of the team stores outside the
ballpark to buy a new Red Sox hoodie. I figured he’d stand out better if any
players signed autographs. He did, after all, just miss out as Jackie went
above and beyond to sign for a ton of fans the night before.
Perhaps a little more decoration might help.
As he put on his new hoodie, Grady told me I am “the
best dad ever,” then we headed to the a ballpark full of fathers who were doing
the exact thing I was doing to earn such a distinguished title.
The ploy worked.
Once we entered the stadium, we headed down toward the
fence in left field in hopes of getting a prime spot.
We were 20 to 25 rows up from the field when Grady
said, “Dad, dad, he’s pointing at me.”
I looked down on the field to see Devers looking our
way. While dozens of fans by the fence had their hands up hoping to catch
Devers’ attention as he looked hand out a souvenir, the young third baseman was
eyeing my son.
Devers pointed to make sure Grady was looking, and he
fired a strike our way. I didn’t see the ball coming, but it was coming in
Grady managed to quickly grab the ball he hoped to
have signed and his Sharpie out of his mitt just in time to snag the ball just
above his left shoulder. The force of the ball forced his glove behind his
head, but Grady held on.
The crowd of Red Sox fans yelled, whistled and
applauded for Grady. Devers was still watching as my son looked at me with a
smile from ear to ear.
We looked down at Devers to see the player pointing
with his glove at Grady. Devers nodded as if to tell him “nice catch.” Then
Devers headed back to his post at third base to continue practicing.
The moment had a “Mean” Joe Greene Coke commercial
vibe about it, and my boy had a memory that will last a life time. So did his
I went through my mind to recall the great highlights
of Devers’ short career. I reminded Grady of when Devers, still just 20, hit
the home run off Aroldis Chapman’s 103 mph fastball in August of 2017. I reminded him of his huge home run at Houston in the
American League Championship Series. I told him how so many experts expect
Devers to be a breakout star this season.
I’m not sure if the magnitude of the moment has sunk
in for him. I can’t tell if he realizes that seeing him catch that ball is one
of the highlights of my life.
It certainly was something spectacular, indeed.
We got up early Sunday morning for the long drive
home. We took one last look at T-Mobile Park as we turned onto I-90 for the
start of the 600-mile trek.
“So,” I said, “who is your favorite baseball player?”
Grady thought for a second before saying, “Um …