Visiting our favorite ballpark is typically filled with fun and cheers. Sometimes, we get a chance to make the visit special for someone else.
We all hate our division rivals. The moments we spend talking smack about our team’s rivals far outweigh the times we might have something nice to say about them. Sure, there are kind words we could say about Boston or Baltimore, but why would we want to be nice? Besides, it’s always more fun to poke fun at our friends and family (how dare they be a fan of the Mariners) during a game. Then there are moments when we find an opportunity to show the world that life and being a true fan is bigger than the competition itself. Look hard enough and we’ll find those chances in the seemingly smallest of opportunities. A chance that may mean nothing for us but means the world for someone else. Something where the biggest reward is seeing a smile on another’s face. One chance, one instance, one life changed in a very special moment.
Setting the Stage
One of those moments happened in Toronto on Tuesday. Recovering an Aaron Judge home run isn’t a rare occurrence. Catching a home run in a less than advantageous seat off the bat of Judge is. But, that is what happened for Mike Lanzillota while sitting in the left-field seats of Rogers Centre. What seemed like a trivial home run for Judge, Lanzillota, and every fan watching the game, the 4-bagger turned into something greater for one young fan.
The Young Fan
Kids find the one player they want to emulate. That player becomes the child’s favorite no matter the team. Mom and dad may try to convince him that the player is on their most hated rival team. That persuasion fails for weeks until the parent gives up. They give up for the single most reason of seeing their kid love baseball and love a player. They want their child to be happy. Then that moment of making their child’s dream come true with a trip to an MLB stadium to see their favorite player. Derek Rodriguez only wanted to be happy when the Yankees traveled to Toronto. Mom and dad could smile with delight knowing their son was in his happiest moments being able to see Aaron Judge, his favorite player.
The Act of Kindness
The paths of Lanzillota and the Rodriguez family crossed before Judge hit a home run. Lanzillota noticed a youngster behind him wearing the jersey of Judge. He knew that if there were any chance of catching a home run, he was hoping that it would come off the bat of Judge. With his team up 1-0 and the game heading into the later innings, Lanzillota knew he had a couple more chances for a Judge at-bat. Then, in the 6th inning, a ball headed towards Lanzillota. A ball off Judge’s bat was flying straight towards him and his buddy. The moment he’d waited for was finally here. He had retrieved an Aaron Judge home run. Without hesitation, he turned and gifted the ball to one young fan.
Overcome With Elation
What transpired the moments after Lanzillota handed the ball to young Rodriguez was a moment that warmed hearts and caused a few allergies to be kicked up. Not only was young Derek Rodriguez in possession of a home run ball, but a home run ball off the bat of his favorite player. Overcome with sudden joy, he did what any child will do – burst into tears of joy. Adding to the tears of joy, he nearly jumped into the arms of Lanzillota and embraced him with a hug worthy of the moment. Pure joy, simple emotion, and a moment that is now forever captured in the hearts of baseball fans.
Story Still to be Written
Yes, there’s more to this story. More happy moments. From a Yankee win to meeting Judge and even an invite for all to attend a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. But this story is much more than the moment. There is decency and doing the right thing.
Lanzillota knew that there was a child behind him living out a dream of seeing his favorite team and player live for possibly the first time in his young life. He knew that a home run ball off the bat of Judge would make the memorable night that much greater. More impressive is that Lanzillota was going to act selflessly just to make a child’s dream come true. If not for the cameras Lanzillota was going to get away with this kind of act without recognition.
Kindness at Every Opportunity
In an age where our collective society is angered by nearly everything possible, it is amazing when one person goes out of their way to generate kindness. Baseball stadiums across the country are seeing brawls break out in the stands. Yet, in Toronto, you have kindness on full display. It was the love of baseball that brought humanity back to the forefront of all that is good about sports. So the next time you’re at your local baseball stadium, look for someone to be nice too. Give folks around you a hive five in celebration of a home run. Hand a foul ball to a youngster. Provide a handshake/fistbump to the fan of the visiting team after their team wins. It won’t hurt. Besides, kindness goes further than we will ever know.