Saturday, April 11, 2015

Just A Bit Outside

Don’t let the 9-0 score fool you, Friday’s game was a pitchers’ duel. Morrisonville scored eight runs in the sixth inning, but only two of them were earned and Lincolnwood’s Trevor Wagner and David Pope were nearly every bit as good as Austin Deal and Brady Wilkinson, who combined to no-hit the Lancers.

But the best pitch of the day, for me at least, came about five minutes before Trevor first toed the rubber in the top of the first. Friday was the first of four first pitches that Grace is scheduled to throw out this year and it will be something I’ll never forget. 

Grace had quite the cheering section for Friday's game, including some of our favorite Armour cousins, Kayley, Kensey and Katelyn.

Not that it was perfect. Far from it. Grace had just woke up about a half hour before we headed to the ballpark in Raymond and experienced what we like to call a “post-nap grouch.” At its best, it looks like a little wimpering and a few tears until we get ourselves woke up. At its worst, it’s a badger caught in a bear trap. Friday was in between the two – lots of yowling, a few tears, but nothing too major.

Aunt Mikaela, here plying Grace with a beach ball during the post-nap grouch phase, made the trip from Arnold to see Grace's first pitch. She has been one of our biggest advocates through all of this, which means the world to me.

Just before the pitch itself, Lincolnwood Baseball Coach and Athletic Director Josh Stone read a little something about INAD and how the Lancers were raising money to help fund the study at Washington University to help stop this ridiculously awful disease. I’ve known Josh for about eight years now, since he was an assistant coach and my brother Shane was playing for Lincolnwood. We have an awesome working relationship and his support of our family since Grace’s diagnosis has been incredible.

I had kind of thought about how I was going to help Grace throw out the ball, but I could never really figure out a way to do it. So as Josh handed me the ball, I decided to just wing it. With Grace still wailing away, we headed to about halfway between the mound and the plate. I would have been lucky to get the ball to the catcher from the pitcher’s rubber unhindered, but with a wormy 30-pound sack of potatoes in one arm, I figured I’d take the safe route.

When Josh asked who we wanted to catch the first pitch, I asked for either Reese Snyder or Kyle Thomas, mainly because those are two of the players that I know a little more personally than some of the others. It turned out that Reese would get the call, which was good because he was playing catcher that day and already had part of his gear on.

Grace and I's first pitch was juuuuusssst a bit wide, but fortunately Reese Snyder was there to make the catch before it hit the dirt.

He’d need it. Still with no idea how I was going to help Grace throw the ball, I opted for a left handed flip that got to the plate, but tailed out of the strike zone by a good 12 inches. Luckily, Reese slid to his right and made the catch before the ball hit the ground and skittered to the backstop.

From the time we stepped foot on the field to the time we stepped off of it, the only time Grace stopped yowling was when we threw the ball. At that moment, she giggled. I knew she would. There has always been something about that motion that cracks her up every time. That’s why playing catch is one of my favorite things to do with her.

I'm not sure who enjoyed throwing out the pitch more, me or Grace. (Not entirely true... I'm pretty sure I know.)

And that’s part of the reason why Friday was so special. It was something that I knew Grace would enjoy. While she may never toe the rubber herself, we’ll always have Friday’s first pitch, plus a baseball signed by the whole Lancer team to remember it by.

I know that the other first pitches are going to be just as special. We have ones scheduled with the Lincolnwood softball team for April 14, when they play the Lady Hiltoppers of Hillsboro, and for April 30, when Lincolnwood and Morrisonville play on the Mohawks’ home field. The Nokomis softball team has also reached out to us about having a Grace throw out a pitch, which will be awesome as well.

Hopefully, we can avoid the post-nap grouch at those games, but if not, as long as I can hear that little giggle when the ball leaves my hand, all will be right in the world.

We had some awesome baby sitters after the first pitch. Kayley, Kensey and Aunt Mikaela did an awesome job keeping Grace entertained while Mary and I covered the baseball and softball games.

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