It's Monday, just after noon, and I'm about to head back out to Vets Field for the continuation of the Class B Area Senior Legion Baseball Tournament.
But instead of looking forward to the Post 71 Arlington Eagles' game against Omaha Roncalli, I'm still here, sucking down my coffee, and thinking about last Saturday night's game between the Pride and Blair. Man, it was my favorite Washington County ballgame of the year.
The Bears won 10-4, but the game felt closer. The competitive energy in the air just after 9 p.m. — when the bout started — and throughout was awesome. Both teams wanted to win and weren't, willingly, going to let the other team get that satisfaction. It was a fight.
But, here's a little something you may have caught up on — the best sports stories have very little to do with the games themselves. Blair versus Omaha Roncalli was more than a game Saturday night.
No. 1, it was about Team Mark — the Blair Bears. Mark Thompson, who is battling lung cancer, threw out the first pitch. Caddon Keatts' dad has the whole Post 154 team — players, coaches and fans — behind him.
The hand shakes and hugs after Thompson's pitch were special.
No. 2, Saturday's game was about family. For Blair City Council member Jon Stewart, that meant grandson Jason Stewart was playing baseball against grandson Cole Ryan. Stewart, the Blair grandson, pitched in relief Saturday night, facing Ryan — the Roncalli grandson with a bat.
Now, its my job to know about Blair sports, but I can confidently tell you that Jon Stewart knows 10 times as much. While the Bear knowledge floating around in my brain every hour of every day is slowly driving me mad, Jon is still able to coherently put together thoughts about the big picture.
On Saturday, before the big game between Jason and Ryan, Jon sent me text about what was on his mind. These are his words with a little bit of my editing because I couldn't help myself and he said I could (thanks Jon!).
“Riding home, down I-29 from fishing in Canada, going from 77 degrees to 99, and thinking about the upcoming Legion Seniors District in Blair.
Funny that the first thought I had was a question I was asked more than once the past couple of weeks, 'Who are you rooting for?' My quick answer was, 'Our grandsons!'
Yes, it will be strange because, as of last spring, they grew up playing together on all of the usual Blair club teams and a couple others and school teams — from club soccer to baseball with football and basketball in between.
My best memory of the two was their sophomore year during some Blair football mop-up duty. Jason's first varsity completion and Cole's first varsity catch was for a gain. I still have it on my phone!
But, back to the question. This is about treating the game of baseball, my favorite sport (my (Baltimore) O's are testing me though), and each other (favorites of course, too!) with respect. It will not be about the coaches, the parents, grandparents or fans. It will be about their effort and the respect for each other after the game and after their careers — however successful or long — are done.
This isn't about their parents, our children, who were successful in high school and college, and who we had years of fun coaching and following.
I always end our conversations with the grandkids 'Love ya!' and that will never change.”
Hi. Grant here again. I really liked to hear just how excited Jon was to see both his grandsons on the same field again. Here's another story he shared that illustrates why. Cole and Jason's great-grandfather Bill Williby, a World War II veteran, was a baseball fan himself.
“I took him to the College World Series when the Huskers were last in it. The weather was like this weekend's will be — unbearably hot. Bill was from Royal, Neb., and played Legion ball with Baseball Hall of Famer Richie Ashburn from Tilden. They hitched rides to play at Ord in the '40s. He later umped town leagues, and was a coach of the very talented Fairway Softball team.
As I complained about the heat, he immediately replied, 'I would love to be out there! The heat keeps your arm loose! One will win a game, one will lose a game, but both will be fine.'”
These stories show why sports is about more than the game. I get the feeling Jon feels like I do. Saturday night was a great night, and we were fortunate to be there and not because someone won a game 10-4. It's about more than a game folks!