The year was 1991. I had just had baby #3 when hubby was downsized from his job. The summer was NOT looking so promising. Hubby took a job with a buffet type restaurant and was training in Virginia, in a town about 45 miles from where my parents lived. We decided to stay with my parents for the summer until they permanently placed him in his new restaurant. I’m sure that was a thrill for my parent s to have their grown daughter, husband AND three kids (including a new born) move in for an extended stay. We were there for the summer (most of June, July and August) when they decided to permanently place him in the restaurant there in Lynchburg, literally right off campus of Liberty University.
It was quite a commute for my hubby every day and when we found out they were permanently placing him in that same restaurant we found a little (OLD) house outside the city (if you can call it a city) about a third of the way between his work and my parents. My kids ended up LOVING living in the country. I’m glad they had that experience and that we did end up moving back to Georgia but those two summers spent in Virginia I would not trade for anything. I call those the “baseball” years.
I call it that because Lynchburg was the home to the “farm” team (minor league) of the Red Sox at the time. Most of these players just want to make it to the Major Leagues but while they are in the minors they work for very little money. My husband got to be very good friends with the owners, managers and lots of the players and since hubby is a baseball fanatic it was bliss for him. He puts the FAN in the word fanatic. He eats, sleeps and breathes baseball, in fact, his dad played in the minors when HE was a young man so my husband has had a lifelong love affair with the game.
During the first summer we lived there hubby became aware of how little money those guys made and most of the time he’d find a way to feed the players. They would come in mostly every day when they weren’t on the road and in fact, the manager told my hubby that was the first year in many years that a lot of the players didn’t get sick from not eating right. Seems he kept them well fed and healthy and to show their appreciation, the second year they presented hubby with his very own “official” team jacket.
That is STILL his prized possession. I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees outside, he’s wearing that jacket. Bless his heart (and the jacket’s), he’s worn it so much he has practically worn it out. The cuffs and neckline are becoming frayed and the fabric is fading but he STILL loves that jacket and wouldn’t part with it for the world. The fact that the team gave it to him means more than the jacket itself.
One summer day we’re out riding around and we pull up to a store and there, from the newsstands, staring back at me was this:
Now THAT is how you know you’re living in a small town. There’s a major earthquake in California the day before but two thirds of the front page of the local newspaper is taken up by a picture of your husband and two of your children from batting practice at the local minor league ball field. I love that the picture is titled “Making Memories”. It says that the girls and their father are collecting autographs during batting practice. Make memories we did!
For those two summers, if the team was playing in town, you’d find us at the stadium. If hubby could not get off work, I’d take the girls. Our girls (at least the older two) also became baseball fanatics. They (when hubby took them) would get to the stadium during batting practice and watch the guys warm up and collect their “autographs”. They got to know the players so well that they knew what kind of candy each player liked and would make individual little candy bags for the players and give them to them before the games. They sat with the player’s wives and girlfriends during most games and all the players knew their names.
In fact, the players knew them so well that at one game they called #2 out onto the field between innings to play one of those games they do to entertain the fans while they are waiting to get set up for the next inning. Well, #2 was too shy to go down to the field so #1 (who has NEVER met a stranger) pipes up and says “I’ll do it!” So off she trots to play this game and we never bothered to correct the announcer that it was #1 instead of #2 because we figured it didn’t matter and by the time we did that, the little game would be over anyway! So, we are sitting right beside the dugout, just about on the bottom row. We are close enough that if the players are outside the dugout you can hear their conversations. Well, since all the players knew our kids, when they heard them announce #2’s name, they all came out of the dugout and were standing at the rail watching her.
So out struts #1 and participates in the game and about 30 seconds into the game one of the players turns around to where we are sitting and turns back around to the field and then back to us then nudges the player beside him and (very loudly) says (as he’s pointing to #1) “Wait a minute! That’s not #2! That’s #1!” oops…. So I guess when the ball players know your kids THAT well… you’ve been hanging out at the ball park a little too much. The girls had tons of baseball cards and baseballs signed by these guys. Most of them never made it out of the minors but a few have gone on to bigger things and played in the majors. This was almost 20 years ago so most of them have retired anyway.
But there is one player who still pitches in the Majors. Last year (or maybe year before, I can’t remember) #1 and her hubby went to a Braves game and one of the pitchers from back then happened to be playing in that game (for the other team). Remember, I said she never met a stranger, right? She walked down to the “visitors” dugout and stationed herself as close as she could get and when she finally could make eye contact with one of the players she asked him to go get “her player” out of the dugout for her so she could talk to him.
Keep in mind that she was 7 or 8 years old during those summers and now she is a 25 or 26 year old woman with a husband. Anyway, he comes out of the dugout and she runs down and I think grabs him and gives him a hug and he’s probably looking at her like she’s a crazy person like “Do I know you?” and she introduces herself and tells him that she used to watch him play in Lynchburg when she was a little girl and that her dad ran the restaurant they used to eat at all the time. He holds his hand up to stop her and goes “OH MY GOD!!! You’re the candy girl!?!“ Amazing what people remember, huh? She was thrilled beyond belief that he remembered that after all those years and that her hubby got to witness it, that she hadn’t been lying about how close they were to the players.
Here are some pictures of the girls and the players for those two summers that the girls were living their All American Adventure:
From summer 1991 through summer of 1992 our girls got to spend endless evenings at the baseball field and every Sunday with their grandparents for Sunday dinner. So the summer that started out NOT so promising was really the start to the best two summers of their lives!