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The joy of kids and baseball

I am so incredibly proud of my oldest son, Eric Anthony. Tonight at a Mariners baseball game, he showed me how mature – and how good – a young man he is becoming.

We arrived two hours before the game so he could try to get autographs. This is something I enjoyed doing when I was little, and now that he is interested in baseball, he’s started getting into this as well.

He particularly wanted to get a signature on a ball from 21-year-old Angels phenom Mike Trout (this year’s likely American League MVP and Rookie of the Year). As soon as we entered the stadium, we saw Trout signing for some kids next to their dugout. Eric Anthony hurried down, but just as he got to the railing, he was crowded out of the way by some aggressive adults, trying to get to Trout first. Trout saw what was happening and left quickly to take batting practice.

We stayed by the field and the crowd thinned. He got signatures from catcher Chris Iannetta and hitting coach Jim Eppard. Other players passed by but didn’t stop to sign, and Eric Anthony was getting a little discouraged, but we decided we’d stay down as long as we were allowed. The usher was very nice, and she advised us she would “look the other way” as long as she could.

And finally, just before the National Anthem, Trout popped his head out of the dugout and started signing again for some kids at the other end of the dugout.

Eric Anthony hurried over to him, and a minute later ran back to me excitedly, saying he got his autograph! He looked at the ball … only to find it there was nothing on it.

His ball had been accidentally handed to another boy, also about 9 and wearing a Mike Trout jersey. Eric Anthony had been given back the boy’s blank baseball by the usher, who had been helping coordinate.

So Eric Anthony went to the boy and explained what happened, much to the child’s dismay. After explaining it to his father, the boy gave Eric Anthony back his ball. The father put his arm around the boy and told his son that they would try again another time.

Eric Anthony looked at his ball. For two hours he had tried to get it signed and had finally succeeded in getting his treasure …

… and he held it out to the other boy and said “Here, you can have this one.”

At first the boy said he couldn’t take the ball, but Eric Anthony reassured him that it was OK, and the boy absolutely lit up. His father was extremely grateful to Eric Anthony, and offered to buy us dinner, but that wasn’t the point … Eric Anthony saw how much it meant to the other boy. He saw how happy the boy was when he had gotten the autograph, and how sad when he realized it wasn’t on his ball.

And so Eric Anthony gave away the ball. It meant so much to the other boy (and to the father). I was so proud of him. And honestly, I think that blank baseball is an even better treasure than it ever could have been with the autographs on it.