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Fifteen years ago on a cool September afternoon, my 10 year son and I went to the baseball field to work on his pitching form. He was not in his teams “rotation’, but I had assured my son, with practice his turn would come.
After a few minutes into our routine a half-pint sized kid appears by the dugout. Dressed in catchers gear, he calls out “nice throwing, pitcher!” I looked over at this kid who was considerably smaller than my son. “So, you’re a catcher?” I asked. “Yup..and if you don’t mind, I’ll catch your son and you can go down to second base and I’ll throw a few down to you. I chuckled to myself while admiring this young boy’s gusto.
My son had made a few throws, when in the distance I could hear a mans voice call out, “whoa, what do we have here, another Nolan Ryan in the League?” He was a middle aged guy with a salt and pepper beard, wearing a torn t-shirt and shorts that were riddled with holes. “NICE THROW KID” he yelled out.His voice with such enthusiasm, it sent chills down my spine! He was carrying a giant equipment bag on his shoulder, and let it fall to the ground. He walked briskly towards me while not taking an eye off of my son. “whoa kid, you keep throwing like that and one day you’ll be selling your autograph!” He extended his hand out to me, “howdy, I’m Bill Riggans, coach of the Dodgers. We have a scrimmage game today against Quackenbush. Your son throws nicely; does he pitch in our league?” I explained that he was on a team that already had 4 pitchers, so getting a turn on the mound was not easy. “Well, that shouldn’t be” he commented. “Well, I have a scrimmage game in an hour, how about if he starts on the mound for my team?” My jaw dropped, “start?....won’t your parents object to seeing a strange kid start on the mound” “Heck, he answered, “if any of the kids on my team could throw half as good as your son, they would start….” My pride had to be showing, “thanks, sure, he’ll be ready to start for you.” I walked over to my son and explained to him that his chance had come. I told him to stay with the coach while I raced home for his athletic cup, a baseball jersey and a bottle of Gatorade.
My wheels schreeched as I pulled up the driveway. “Where’s Adam? My wife quizzed. “I left him at the field, he’s with the Dodgers, the coach, Bill Riggans thinks he’s the next Nolan Ryan and wants him to start on the MOUND in an hour.” I was back in the car when the word “hour” reached her ears.
When I returned to the field my son was in the dugout with the rest of his new teammates. As I handed my son a bag with his things, I casually asked if he had told Shawn Riggans, the catcher, his different pitches. Shawn piped out, “yeah, its all taken care of, 1 is a fastball, 2 is a change up 3 will be high and inside” “High and inside?” You want him throwing at the batters head?” I asked. “Yeah, cause the next pitch will be coming down the middle of the plate, but the batter will be too shaken to even swing…don’t worry Mr. I’ll take care of the batters”. I could barely believe what I was hearing, psychology from a 10 year old catcher who needed extra bungee cords to keep the mask and chest protector from sliding off his small frame!
Shawns plan worked. Adam pitched splendidly and looked like a genius with Shawn calling the pitches. After that day, word got back to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Adams coach, and he finally did geta turn to pitch!
The next season, Coach Bill picked up Adam in the draft. Bill and I coached baseball together, and the park was not the same for the next 6 years. Bill and I have remained best of friends, and our memories of the days on the baseball diamond have sustained through good times and the bad.. My son Adam, had a fine little league and High School baseball career. Shawn….. Shawn’s growth was slow in coming, and while he made the H.S. baseball team he was used as bullpen catcher. He had six at bats in H.S. While this may have bothered Shawn, he pressed on. His work ethic, relentless.His heart, filled with this dream of playing baseball!
On September 6th of this year Shawn Riggans got his turn. He was called up to play in the Majors by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. This “half-pint”, grew ,and has now had more at bats in the major league than he had while playing H.S.!! He has played in Yankee Stadium, hit ground balls fielded by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.
Not all wishes and dreams come true. But, without a heart filled them what would this world be like!
Way to go Shawn! Game against Boston Today!