Reflecting on Great Baseball Memory Which Kept me Sane During Cancer Treatment
Six years ago to this very day on Monday July 21, 2008 my life was at a very different place. At that time, I was still single and it would be another 22 months before I met my now wife in person. It would be another 13 months until I had completed my masters in student affairs, 13 months until I knew where my next job would be as a direct result of finishing the degree at Texas State University-San Marcos. At that time though, I had some doubt as to if my degree time line would even remain in place.
Originally scheduled to graduate in May of 2009, my plans were altered weeks earlier during the summer of 2008 by a shocking discovery. After feeling off for a few weeks, I had a lump discovered on my thyroid and by the time June 20 came around, I had gone through a surgery and then got the shocking news that early stage cancer was discovered. A second surgery would follow July 14, the day Josh Hamilton hit 28 homers in the first round of the Derby at the old Yankee Stadium. I was scheduled for a follow-up July 21. It just also happened that July 21 was plan B of my attempt at seeing baseball outside Texas for the very first time in my life.
Earlier that spring, I had been scheduled to meet my friend Liz in San Diego for a weekend getaway where we would see a pair of games, the Padres on Sunday May 11 and the Angels the next night. Unfortunately, I came down with a head cold and those plans had to be scrapped. Only days afterward, the thyroid issues would be realized.
That same summer, I had circled dates on the baseball calendar for some time in July and I picked a time when the Mets and Yankees were both at home, the Yankees against Minnesota July 21-23 and the Mets against Philadelphia July 22-24. Originally scheduled to be in summer school with a window that would allow travel in late July, the plan was to leave Tuesday the 22nd, see both teams on the 23rd as the Yankees had a day game and the Mets a night game, then fly home the morning of the 24th and be in class that evening. As a result of the events in June though, now classes were off the board. Summer classes in 2008 which were are graduate electives in the program would be pushed to summer of 2009 and I hoped to just be in position to maintain myself for my already scheduled courses that fall.
Sunday night the 20th, I stayed with my aunt Barbara and she was taking me to my appointment the next morning. The plan would be one of two approaches, return to my San Marcos apartment or head to the airport for a Southwest flight which when from Austin to Philadelphia via Nashville. I would end up cleared to travel and so off I went.
I got into Philly late that night and it was near midnight before I got to my hotel. I took care of some other travel arrangements, then discovered Hotwire had double debited my bank account, I never book online that way anymore. I was able to get the banking situation dealt with in time Tuesday before my train to New York. I arrived at 2:15 that afternoon, then used the subway and an airline train to get to my hotel. I then dropped my things and headed out via cab to the subway at 5:00. I was now headed to the Bronx for the first time on my own.
This was not my first visit to New york, I had been in the city in 2002 and 2003 with friends, but as a blind person in a relatively new environment, it certainly presented for some adventure.
I made it to the game about an hour before first pitch. I was awaiting the arrival of my friend Heather who at the time lived in Connecticut and she had decided to meet me for the game. We would get connected with each other just minutes before first pitch.
The game would be very enjoyable, the home town 9 with a relatively easy victory over visiting Minnesota. Little did we know that in 2008, the Yankees would miss the playoffs all together and the Twins would lose a dramatic divisional playoff game against the White Sox. Sitting near us that night, another group of fans who were as it turned out also going to the Mets game the next night. Like me, they were in town to see two ballparks that would soon fall to the wrecking ball.
After the game, I said goodbye to Heather and eventually got back to my hotel. I would sleep well and I was trying to plan how to spend a day alone in New York. The answer, make an impromptu visit to the Empire State Building. I would get to go all the way to the top on a very cloudy afternoon and it was an experience I will never forget. Storms were in the forecast that night and I asked the guide who was with me, what do you do when you have all these people up here and lightning approaches. He said please don’t say that, though in my mind I was thinking it could happen while I was on site.
The next big question due to the weather, what about the Mets game that night. Before I could worry about that, came a jam of people back at Penn Station. A major electrical failure had shut down the New Jersey transit trains going into the Garden State and I could not even guess how many people were at the station awaiting those trains. Thankfully, the subway systems were not impacted and a little after 5:00 that Wednesday July 23, I was off to Shea. This game would be close all the way, the Mets ultimately held on for a one-run victory. That night, I sat with a father and son who were also doing the ballpark visits and the prior night, they were also in the Bronx but on the other side of the stadium from where I was seated. The weather held until the game ended that night, though shortly after returning to my hotel, the rain would begin to fall.
It would be a short night as I had a mid-morning train back to Philadelphia on Thursday July 24 and I tried out the Acela Express. It was a very comfy train and as someone who loves riding train cars, it was an experience I would recommend again. I got to Philadelphia a bit before 11:00 and a few hours later, I was on my flight back to Austin.
Three weeks later, the treatment would conclude and before I knew it, I was back in graduate school for fall classes and a year later, I had finished what I had started in August of 2007. I will never forget that baseball experience and how it kept me going. Baseball along with politics and weather were those things that kept my mind occupied when I was not worried about my medical situation. Above it all, I will always remember how much I enjoyed those times at the ballpark. If you know someone who is facing a challenge in life, no matter how big or small it may seem, find a way to get them out of the house and into a ballpark. It just might help in more ways than you ever realize.