Bring Me Home

Photo by Chad Lyons

Photo by Chad Lyons

It was a busy day at the ball park and while everyone else was surrounded by the sights and sounds of baseball, he was working, one of the cogs in the wheel that made things happen for the fans.  He noticed the boy sometime during the 4th inning.   He sat alone, one hand inside his baseball glove and the other rolling a baseball back and forth in the smooth, worn leather.  He appeared to be about twelve, judging by the size of his nephew who was about the same age.  As he left the section he asked the usher, George, “Keep an eye on that kid in seat number 11, I will be back.”

A while later he found himself back with George gazing at the boy, “Any activity with 11?”

“Not really, typical kid, snuck in some snacks, looks like a sandwich and one of those things that kids drink juice out of these days.  I left him alone, what the hell do I care if the kid eats?   There are so many these days that don’t have food at all.  So what’s up with him Jones?”

He smiled, thinking how even the part time ushers now called him Jones.  Obviously everyone who hadn’t heard about Garrett Jones from the Pittsburg Pirates hitting one into the stands and right into the back of his head  had now seen it on ESPN’s play of the week.  It had hurt like hell but no harm, no foul.  Garrett was a standup guy with a sense of humor; he autographed the baseball and sent him a helmet with a target on it.

“I don’t know George, but I think he might be here alone and I need to figure it out.”

George smiled, “Back in my day, the best kind of day was being alone at the ball game.  The only thing better was to be here with the boys from the neighborhood.  Now days, you have all of these parents hovering around their kids like they can’t do a damned thing on their own.  I like the kid all ready.  You know, I have seen him before.  He is here quite often but never alone.  Usually there is an older man with him, I am guessing his Grandfather.”

“It would make sense, those are season ticket seats.”

“Jones, the more I think about it, all the years I have been in this section, I see the same old guy sitting in the seat that the kid is in and usually the kid is next to him.  Looks like it’s time for you to watch the game.”

He usually kept a couple of extra baseball hats in his back pocket, always amazed at how quickly he could diffuse a situation with free swag.  As he walked down a few rows to the kid, something told him this was going to be more than a quick handshake and a free hat moment.   “Mind if I sit for a minute?”

The kid looked straight ahead, “You better, the lady behind you is going to start complaining if you stand too long.”

He moved the backpack from the empty seat 12 and set it on the floor.  It seemed heavier than it should, he probably had everything but the kitchen sink in the thing.  Glancing behind him an older woman wearing a baseball hat, walker folded at her feet, glared.  “Wow, Tough crowd for a Wednesday.”

The kid smiled, “Fran’s not that bad once you get to know her.  Grandpa always buys her a beer and then she stands up without her walker for the 7th inning stretch.  He told me one day that he just wants to keep the old girl going, he knew her back when they were kids and remembered how she could hit a baseball farther than most of the boys in the neighborhood.”

“Do you often come here with your Grandpa?”

“Yep, unless I am in school or grounded.  Even when I am grounded, Grandpa usually works it out with my Mom.  He thinks parents should be seen and not heard.”

He laughed thinking about what George had said.   “My name is Joe, I work here.”

The kid never flinched, “Are you sure it’s not Jones?”

“You too!  I think I am going to go sit with Fran!”

The kid, still looking at the field grinned, “That had to have left a mark.”

Obviously he had underestimated the boy.  He had a way about him that seemed much older than he looked.  Everything about him seemed to be aged to perfection.  His hat was frayed around the edges, his glove was worn in all the right places and his banter was better than most adults.

The kid turned, looked him directly in the eyes, “My name is Ty, you know, after Ty Cobb.”

“Well, how do you think I got the name Joe, my Dad had dreams of the next DiMaggio before I was born.”

Ty smiled, “I am just happy my name doesn’t rhyme with anything.  There is a kid at school whose name is Bart, that’s not easy.”

“So Ty, did you know there are rules about kids being at the ballpark alone?”

Ty didn’t miss a beat, “I’m not alone.”

The crack of the bat hitting the ball at the bottom of the 7th inning was so loud that they were both distracted by the sudden action in the game followed by Fran yelling, “That’s what I’m talking about boys!”

He realized Ty was staring at him.  “I know what you do here.  Grandpa said you were the guy.”

“What guy would that be?”

Ty smiled, “You know who you are.  The guy who can make fans dreams come true.”

He laughed, “Oh THAT guy!  Yeah, I have been known to make a few things happen here and there.”

“We were here last week when you helped that guy ask his girlfriend to marry him.  Even Fran got a bit misty over that one.  Grandpa said it was important to marry a girl who was a home team fan.   Jones, you got a girl?”

“Unfortunately no, all the free agents don’t seem to be on my team this year.  But I am thinking Fran just might be my gal.”

Ty laughed, “Forget it, you are too short.  She always whistles at the tall ones.”

“Strike three, again.”

“So that guy who popped the question, how did you make that happen?”

He noticed Ty was staring at his backpack.  “I have permission to do whatever it takes to make the fans and the crowd happy.  Sometimes it is a free hat or t-shirt, sometimes it’s more.”

Ty reached into his backpack and pulled out an envelope.  “You are supposed to read this.”

He held the envelope.  The handwriting was jagged, like someone had written it on the dashboard of a moving car.  He looked at Ty; his knuckles were turning purple as he gripped the ball still sliding it in and out of his glove.  As he opened the letter, a picture fell out of the envelope.  It was an old picture but the boy in the photo looked exactly like Ty.  It was taken at the same ball park, decades before.  He looked at the paper which contained 3 words, “Bring me home.”  He turned to Ty who was looking directly into his eyes.  “Ty, you said you were not alone, where is your Grandpa.”

Ty glanced at his backpack.  “You’re the man Jones, it’s his dream come true.”

Throughout the years there had been many requests.  The normal marriage proposals, pictures with babies on home plate, autograph requests even for players on opposing teams.  But this was different.  This wasn’t a marriage proposal shown on the local news at 11.  This was a lifetime worth of memories.  This was what remained of Ty’s Grandpa.  This was his dream for his Grandson to continue on.  This was going to be nearly impossible.

“Jones, you got this, right?”

“Can you stay for a while after the game?”

“I got no place else to be.”

It was the bottom of the 8th.  He had to figure this out.  He kept reading the 3 words, “Bring me home.”  What the hell was he going to do?  He couldn’t just dig up home plate and put him in the ground.  With every pitch of the ball, “Bring me home.”  With every crack of the bat, “Bring me home.”  With every look at Ty who had relaxed his grip on the ball, “Bring me home.”  As the players of each team closed the game out, “Bring me home.”  As the park emptied, “Bring me home.”  As he smiled at Ty, “Bring me home.”

“Ty, follow me, we are going to take a walk.”

Ty picked up his backpack and followed him through the stands and behind the scenes.  After games fans and reporters gathered around the locker rooms.  For most employees, it was just a job and left as soon as the game was over.  No one would ever notice them entering the groundkeepers area.  It didn’t take long to find what he was looking for.  The line marker sat in the corner covered in chalk dust.

Ty reached into his backpack and took out a simple urn.  A lone tear trailed down his cheek as he unscrewed the lid and gently mingled his Grandpa’s ashes with the remaining chalk.  He looked at Joe, “So dreams do come true.”

As they stepped out on the field, the sun was beginning to set in the west.  The air was still in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun.  They both paused and looked up to the stands, seat 11, empty.

“Ty, it’s just like tracing a line on a piece of paper.  Take it slow, there’s no hurry.”

He watched Ty carefully tracing the lines on the field.  He walked from home plate to first, first to second, second to third and finally from third, “Bring me home.”

Life is often described as a full circle moment, but for Ty’s Grandpa it would always be a diamond on a late summer day.  Welcome home.

Picture by Chad Lyons

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One thought on “Bring Me Home

  1. If I could rate this more than 5 stars, I would. I wanna see the movie, music video, or Hallmark Hall of Fame TV special that goes with this story. Let me know when you have that arranged. ♥ And PS: I need a new box of Kleenex!

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