Summary: Where does our ultimate hope come from?
September 22nd, 1993. It’s a day that will live long in the memory of two boys and their Dad.
"I can’t believe it, Dad," my oldest son said, "Nolan Ryan’s very last road game. This is history and we’re here to see it."
"I know, Matthew. Seven no-hitters. Almost six thousand strike-outs. He pitched when I was a boy. This is awesome!"
"Where is he, Dad? Dad, I can’t see him." My youngest son, Daniel, was almost frantic. He couldn’t bear the thought that he might miss something. His anxiety grew with every thought that number 34 would step from the dugout without his eyes fastened to the legend’s every move. The "Ryan Express" commanded too much of his respect for even one glimpse to go uncollected. So, with a reassuring smile and a gentle nudge in the right direction, I turned his head toward the visitors dugout. "Keep watching son, he’ll come out any moment now."
Such were the thrilling minutes before the final game of Nolan Ryan’s legendary career. For much of the world, baseball means very little. Nolan Ryan means even less. For true fans, baseball means a great deal. Nolan Ryan means even more. The two go together like melody and lyrics. One is the song. The other the verse.
"Here they come, Dad! The Texas Rangers are coming out," my oldest said.
"Where? Where are they, Dad? I can’t see them,” my youngest exclaimed.
The rest of the Texas Rangers took the field. I stood and began to applaud. "Dad," the boys almost shouted, "why are you clapping? We don’t see him. Where is he, Dad?"
"He’ll be out soon boys. Come on. Stand up. He’s a living legend."
The three of us stood there clapping. It seemed like eternity, but in reality it was but seconds. The anticipation was exhilarating. Suddenly, there he was, number 34, Nolan Ryan, the greatest pitcher of all time. All around us people began to stand. The ovation was thunderous, the moment spectacular, the spectacle frozen in time -- a few seconds that shall never fade away.
For two boys and a dad those moments have created a bond stronger than time itself. The smell of popcorn and candy, the feel of a hundred thousand hands smacking together, the sound of Seattle’s Kingdome resounding with fifty thousand voices lifted in joyful cheer, and the sight of number 34 raising his hand in recognition and appreciation of our recognition and appreciation for him were meant just for us. The Legend is a man.
However, Nolan’s game is up. He was the greatest. Never mind that his last game ended bittersweet. Never mind that a torn ligament ended that game before even the first inning concluded. Never mind his last inning as the most awesome pitcher in the great game of baseball included a grand-slam against his record. Never mind, because he brought his own brand of greatness to the ball-park that evening. We’ll remember it. We’ll cherish it. We’ll talk of it. And, like all good stories, it will instruct us about life. My boys will learn something from those few moments with the Legend.
You see, my boys did not have many heroes. This old world offered them precious few. I always hoped that in days to come their lives would be filled with men and women who would inspire them. I could hope that as they became men they would model their lives after men and women who press forward, who work hard, and who demonstrate the goodness and kindness that Nolan Ryan had given us during four decades of major league greatness. I could hope that I would be for them such a model. Time will tell.