The Kind of Hero I Want for my Boys
Y'all know I'm a baseball mom. I grew into the sport when we discovered that my toddler refused to set down his plastic bat. He never tired of throwing that wiffle ball in the air and smacking it all over the field. As luck would have it, he's a lefty. For over a decade, we lugged around a baseball wagon filled with water bottles and sour patch gummies to ball games in 117 degree desert heat and to road games in sticky, red mud. While I never played baseball, I have a soft spot for the camaraderie it ignites in people.
It's not uncommon to see someone catch a foul ball or a T-shirt and hand it off to a stranger seated nearby. We've received old baseball cards from the greeters at the gates and high-fives from the mascots. Young and old rise during the seventh inning stretch to belt out, "Take me out to the ball game," with a hot dog in hand. It's unifying, even if the little ones now have peanut allergies and no clue where to find Crackerjacks. I digress...
That ball-chucking toddler has now grown into a teenager old enough to drive himself to the ballpark. It's not surprising to me that one of his first real jobs has been to work as a bat boy for the Las Vegas Aviators Minor League team. The kid gets paid to take a front row seat at a baseball game! He's gotten a chance to chat with some of his heroes and watch them play up close. It's a dream job, really. I know he's had some experiences he will never forget.
I'd like to share one with you. It's not one you'll find in a sports article or hear on the local news. But it deserves some attention:
Shea Langeliers is a new face here in Las Vegas, which is the AAA affiliate for the Oakland A's. At the start of the season, the Atlanta Braves traded their catcher to Oakland less than a month before opening day. Langeliers had to adjust to a new club, new city, new staff, and the new bat boys watching every play. As the season's unfolded, he's impressed the fans with his powerful hits. I personally saw a homer off of the center field wall. Look, I'm no sports writer. The more I try to communicate the caliber of his talent, the more I'm floundering. I'll leave the stats report and career highlights to ESPN.
On May 12, 2022, the Las Vegas Aviators presented their catcher, #33 Shea Langeliers, with his AA Championship ring and his 2021 World Series ring from the Atlanta Braves. I wasn't there. My son showed me the promo shot on his phone for the special occasion. I've seen the tweeted video of Shea on the field, holding up two fancy boxes to the camera with the announcer blaring in the background. I don't know how many people were in the stands or if his family was there to give him hugs. I'm sure his teammates clapped him on the back, admiration in their eyes.
My teenager was working that night. Usually, he stays close to the dugout during the game, retrieving bats, balls, equipment, and helping stock snacks and water. After the game ends, he waits alongside the other bat boys until the athletes finish up and start home. That night, as the trio of bat boys waited on the bench, laughing amongst themselves, Langeliers approached them. He asked them to wash their hands. They complied, but didn't know why. The catcher then plucked the massive World Series ring out and let the bat boys pass it between them. They felt its weight, rolling it forward and backward into the light, holding it up to their own hands. For just a moment, I'm sure my son felt the tug on his imagination, wondering what it would be like to earn a World Series ring of his own.
Again, this mama wasn't there. I have no idea what the conversation would have been. I don't know if anyone else in the locker room saw it happen. I can only picture lots of wide, boyish smiles on everyone lining that bench. Probably a big, boyish smirk on #33 too. I don't know. The point is--he let them hold it! Punk kids! The nobodies in the dugout. The ones who scrape the gunk off of his cleats. He singled them out when he didn't have to do so. His kindness wasn't for the camera. How many people can say they've held a World Series ring in their hands? Not many. And yet, my son has that memory to last forever.
Do you remember what it was like to be their age? Did you ever go to a big league game and have a hero nod at you or sign your baseball? Did you ever admire a professional player so much that you wear their number and imitate their stance? I'm sure you did. So does my kid. My little ones too. Shea, you, my friend, are a stellar human being, with or without a shiny ring in your pocket. I get the sense that you would have acknowledged my son anyway, even if he hadn't been right there on the bench. I don't even know if you remember that moment, but such a little thing made such an impact. Thank you for being the kind of hero I want my boys to mimic.
You are not the only one.
I don't know all of you by name. I know you tap my son's helmet for good luck every time you step to the plate. I know you let him keep broken shards of bats with your name engraved on them. I know you let him come to work early to throw with him on the field. I know you watch your behavior around him. You've shared your fries with him. My son keeps things close to the vest. He doesn't volunteer such things freely. But when he does, I know it's been churning in his mind for a while.
Thank you to all of the mentors out there that make a difference. Not just in baseball. Those that take 10 extra seconds to say or do something kind. It means a lot. Not only to the kiddos, but to the mama bears too.
Shea, keep grinding! We're grateful to have you in Vegas!