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For the love of baseball

Jennifer Wright  |  Times

Jennifer Wright | Times


It was a rare Sunday in which neither of us had to work, so I suggested we catch a game.

Spring training first drew us to Tampa Bay in 1995. The following year, Chris proposed in the middle of an Expos game in West Palm Beach.

Nearly 20 years of marriage and three kids later, we don't get to games as often as we'd like, even though we call Clearwater home.

As we neared the metal detector for the Phillies-Blue Jays game, he handed me the car keys to put in my purse. "And this." A blue Sharpie. He had hoped to get an autograph or two. Nothing beats spring training's weather, atmosphere and access to players. But we were late.

I had rushed home from church. He was ready and waiting. I just needed a quick change, to tie up my hair and grab a cap.

But where was my Phillies visor? One of the kids' hats? His Clearwater Threshers cap? How could I not find one single article of Philadelphia pride? I must have wasted 15 minutes tearing the house apart before finally heading out the door, my head naked.

He didn't say a word the entire car ride.

Once through security, we rushed to our front-row seats along the third base line, next to the Phillies' dugout, behind a chain-link fence topped with a 5-inch-wide blue padding — at eye level.

So close.

To say our view was obstructed would be an understatement.

We relocated about 20 rows up. He seethed about the money he'd wasted on "good" seats.

We sweated out several innings in the direct sun before I noticed the number on the back of his jersey matched the Phillies' third-base coach.

That explained the seats. The Sharpie. The irritation. The silence.

I suggested we return to our assigned seats during the seventh-inning stretch. At the very least, we could get a photo of the view to accompany the complaint letter he already was writing in his head.

The Phillies' third-base coach took his position right in front of us. "Mr. Samuel!" I yelled. He turned. I pointed to my husband, who revealed the back of his jersey. Mr. Samuel smiled.

A young boy standing next to us in search of foul balls asked my husband if Samuel used to play. Indeed, Juan Samuel played second base for the Phillies in the '80s.

Little J.J. asked if he was good.

"Yeah, he's an All-Star," Chris answered.

After the final out in the Phillies' 10-3 victory, the players shook hands. Mr. Samuel looked our way again, and my husband asked if we could get a photo.

Mr. Samuel graciously obliged. Before he walked away, I handed him the blue Sharpie. He motioned for my husband to turn around.

Chris reached for my hand as we left the ballpark and held it all the way to the car.

Before getting in, he took off his jersey and admired the autograph. I wish I'd taken a picture. But his joy is permanently in my memory. In blue Sharpie.

Jennifer Wright is a senior news designer at the Tampa Bay Times. Contact her at Follow @jwtimesdesigner.

For the love of baseball 03/10/17 [Last modified: Friday, March 10, 2017 2:23pm]
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