Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Jacob meets Coach Mike Martin and Coach Jimbo Fisher!!

If there were an upside to having a genetic disorder that causes tumor growth in just about every important place from the neck up (and some below the neck, too), it would be that (and I hope this is true for anyone out there experiencing even mild cases of whatever afflictions they may have) you get to witness first-hand the open arms and helpful, caring natures of so many people. Not just from your family members and friends, but from complete strangers that dedicate even a small amount of their time to come and show their support for you. Not for any benefit to them. Just for you. You get to see kindness beyond a superficial smile. You get to see what people are really capable of.

Our family has had so many wonderful opportunities over the past few years that have been made possible by truly great people that we could never repay with enough thanks and praise to show them how much each act of kindness meant to us. On Thursday of last week, we were fortunate to be a part of another of these adventures. To share great moments with great people in our community who took time and effort to come and show support for Jacob at a time when I think he really needed it from more than Tammy, Brie, Gavin and I. And so it began…

I cannot comment on the particulars of the events leading up to the game because, once again, Tammy orchestrated the entire ordeal. I know there was involvement from our Pastor, Bob Tindale, stemming from his daughter, Michelle (who works at Shands and was “ground zero” for all of this to unfold!), and from Carol Martin, who was absolutely wonderful to us! Tammy told me at lunch that she received a call from Bob Tindale regarding the Clemson-FSU baseball game that night. I went back to work hoping that we’d get to go to the game, but with the hectic schedule we faced (dance rehearsal, recital, an 8th grade dance, family coming from St. Pete, etc) I didn’t really have expectations to go. We made it to several games last year thanks to a co-worker and his son, but we didn’t manage to make it this year, and since this was the last series of the season, prospects were looking dim.

Tammy called me at 1:45 and informed me that in the last 40 minutes, she had spoken with Bob, and with Carol Martin (wife of the legendary Mike Martin), and that they had arranged for an evening at Dick Howser for all of us! WOOOOOOOOOO! Jacob, Tammy and I LOVE baseball! Football is great, and basketball too (for Jacob), but baseball is king. Nothing better. Well, maybe a few things, but baseball is up there. Really high. Anyways, with the blessing of my awesome boss (who I cannot thank enough for being one of the great people mentioned above), I left work to jail-break the kids from school and get home. Plans were to be at Gate 4 at 4:00pm and meet Chip Baker for BP! Of course, since even the smallest tasks are rarely easy for us, Jacob wasn’t at school (he was at Leon learning his way around for next year with Cobb’s vision teacher). After phone calls and texts, I succeeded in loading up the kiddos. Objective complete.

Right on schedule, we parked at the FSU Circus (because we never told Jacob what the real plans were, though if he couldn’t figure out that we were headed to FSU given that we were all wearing garnet and gold- including himself- , well…). We strolled across Chieftan Way, took a picture in front of the fountain, and made it to Gate 4, Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium! As promised, Chip Baker, Director of Baseball Administration, came and let us in and immediately took us to the field, Jacob at the head of the pack, to start our afternoon! I’ve been on the field before (though not exactly “allowed” to be… and at night…), but this was different. As we walked on, everyone did their thing. Taking batting practice, infield and outfield, warming up. Chip led us to the BP cage surrounding the plate where Mike Martin stood, posted up against the rail, watching Sherman Johnson take some hacks. He introduced us to Coach Martin (who, if you’ve lived in a hole your entire life, is FSU’s baseball coach, one of the all-time winningest coaches in NCAA history, leading FSU to 30-something consecutive post season appearances... Here, check it out yourself: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Martin_(baseball_coach) ) and then to a series of players before heading off to do… a little bit of everything from what I hear! Coach Martin had also recruited another coach to come and hang out with Jacob on the field. Coach Jimbo Fisher. At this point, it was evident that no matter how the day turned out, it was going down as one of the greatest days of the year! We all introduced ourselves, took some pictures and then got a chance to just hang out with them for next half hour or so during BP. Parker Brunelle, Stuart Tapley and Sherman Johnson were some of the first players that Jacob met, who, at this point, was beaming! Mike Martin Jr. came out and kicked it too. We got to talk baseball and football with two of most knowledgeable men in their respective sports. Amazing! Both coaches were outstanding to us. Not just to Jacob, but to all of us. While Jacob and I were shootin’ it with the coaches, Tammy, Brie and Gavin were hanging out with James Ramsey, who was awesome. What a great kid. Gavin got a ball from Parker (maybe?) and while he and I watched some of Tapley’s swings with Coach Martin Jr., Tammy got to talk with Coach Sr. Jacob got a signed FSU TPX hat from Coach Martin and a signed football from Coach Fisher. Bandit!

After BP, Chip came back to take us on a tour of the facilities. We got to see the newly-remodeled trophy room (which, if you visited the link I posted, houses all the trophies and accolades mentioned!) where Coach Martin came and played catch with Gavin, and then Jacob and I got a mini-tour of the clubhouse. The players were all relaxing, eating, etc before the game, so we didn’t stay long. Jacob thought it was cool to see Buster Posey’s old locker that they keep open for him to come back whenever he wants! Very cool. After a 20 minute potty break for G (literally, thought he fell in), Chip showed us out and we went to our seats. Section 6A.

Imagine that you could pick any seats out for a baseball game. Any seats. Right behind home plate? First row, maybe offset a little so you can watch every pitch into the catcher’s glove? Yeah, they were THOSE seats, courtesy of Mrs. Carol Martin! Incredible! We could taste leather and clay! Jacob could actually see the players, the pitches and the swings! And there was room for Gavin to play! It was such a wonderful evening! The game was great, with FSU having bases loaded twice in the first 3 innings, and then busting it open in the fourth. We saw a couple homeruns, a nasty rocket right back at Gilmartin (FSU’s starting pitcher) and were involved in more than a couple of the “N-O-L-E-S” chants! Happy campers! We met Mrs. Martin later in the game and thanked her for her generosity. She gave Jacob one last gift, a ball signed by the entire team!

I took Gavin out of the park after the seventh inning stretch (it was a long game since the Noles put a ton of guys on base) and Tammy and Jacob and Brie stayed to watch FSU close it out with an 8-6 victory in what turned out to be the last regular-season W for the garnet and gold! Thank you, gentlemen, for a wonderful performance!

We headed home, late for a school-night, but with smiles from ear to ear. In a matter of hours, we met a legend, a legend-in-the-making, the man behind the scenes that makes FSU baseball possible, players that are now more than numbers to our family and a woman who graciously arranged a dream-come-true evening for a family she’d never met. This was another reminder that great people are everywhere. I feel fortunate, as does my family, to have met so many in our endeavors.

TD did a fantastic job describing our trip to Mike Martin Field last week.  It was a truly amazing experience for all of us.  Watching Jacob smile ear to ear and being in the presence of so many sincere people (who are such important authority figures in our community and nationwide) was heart-warming.  I just wanted to end the blog by saying thank you to Michelle for taking the time at each infusion to see how not only Jacob is doing, but how we all are doing.  Your job must be so hard at times.  We appreciate you so very much!  Thank you, Michelle, and Pastor Bob, for making the calls and setting up this FSU Baseball experience for Jacob and our family.  It was a very special evening.  How many moms can say their toddler played catch with baseball legend Mike Martin and their teenage children were able to just causally hang out with the next FSU Football legend?!  Saying thank you to Coach Martin, Mrs. Carol Martin and Coach Fisher doesn't seem like enough.  It was so rewarding to meet them all.  Being raised in Tallahassee and having a great love for FSU baseball and football all of my life, it was incredibly awesome for me to watch my children interact with them.  Mr. Chip Baker and the many FSU baseball players we met were fantastic too!  All of them were so great to Jacob.  Jacob spends so much time fighting NF2 it is a blessing to have moments watching him float on air and feeling like he has no worries in the world.  It is people like those mentioned in this post that can make a such a huge positive difference in the lives of children living with serious illnesses.  I'm so happy Jacob was able to be one of those kids touched by their kindness.  It will be a memory we will all always cherish. 


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