BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
Months ago we began planning an end-of-school trip to see the Greensboro Grasshoppers with the children to celebrate another year of hard work complete. On June 8th, our Greensboro trip also became the rebirth of a relationship between baseball and our family.
As you may have read, only two weeks prior we stayed local to watch our hometown Charlotte Knights on a Friday night. City views, fireworks, and the highest level of minor league baseball was what we ordered for the evening. Things quickly changed...
Read what happened in Charlotte --> "Play Ball" to "Damn Ball"!
Two weeks after her serious injury and one week out of the hospital, Katelyn blessed the trip to Greensboro as planned. She understands that accidents happen. She’s so tough and strong, truly fearless and became a hero to many because of her bravery. She handled the hospital and all the various procedures with a positive attitude and a grateful heart. I am happy to know her, let alone play a large part in raising her! In times of crisis, I am most proud then to see my influence on Katelyn and her brother, Colin.
Children bounce back really well, and Katelyn is the ultimate example. While she had little apprehension about going back to a ballpark, she was still very happy to know that our seats at First National Bank Field were very low to the field and WELL PROTECTED BY NETS. If the champ wants nets, she will get nets. If she feels safe and can get her dippin’ dots, that’s all she needs to feel at home.
Her mother and I, on the other hand, have had our own struggles. No mother wants to see her children in pain. No father, or any man in charge of a group, wants to see someone injured on his watch, especially the coolest eight-year-old girl in the world. All that said, we have faith and understand things happen at certain times for certain reasons. That has brought us the biggest peace through this process. Our best course of action is to do anything we can to prevent further safety problems at the ballpark. We sat down as a family and voiced any safety concerns and what we could do to address them. Our points of emphasis were to have a smarter seating arrangement where I was in the middle of the children and closer to protect both of them, to not get up from our seats while the game was in play (wait until between innings), and to know where the first aid station was at every park we attend. We also practiced a “tornado drill.” If I hollered ball and nobody saw it coming, they were to BALL UP in a fetal position and cover their head. During the game we discovered something that brought comfort to my wife: every time I saw a ball off the bat coming our direction, I would calmly say “we’re good,” letting everyone know I had my eye on the ball.
We had a plan. We executed the plan. We all took a little more caution to make sure we left the park the same as we came. That night was not a normal trip for us. For once, we didn’t care about how much a beer cost, how much a hamburger cost. We didn’t even care what her dippin’ dots cost. If they cost $100, she would have still gotten the ice cream. That night was about going to a great game, being there with a great crowd, and experiencing a great ballpark. All of those things are what’s always made baseball so great to me. As a general rule, there’s nowhere “safer” than the ballpark. It’s about beautiful colors of the grass and dirt, the nice uniforms, the wood bat cracking when contacting the ball. We needed the night to go well so we could mentally recover from the ONE unfortunate incident we’ve had at a ball field.
Of course, the outing wasn’t quite the same as our past ballpark adventures. At least for us adults, maybe it never will be. One thing I can tell you: we will keep going to see if we ever find our old normal feeling. Greensboro may have been the perfect place to rekindle our baseball romance. First National Bank Field has wider nets than anywhere we have visited. Katelyn has been in love with Grasshoppers name since she heard about them last year, and she has written short stories about a real grasshopper playing baseball even before she went to a game there herself. I think she also found a comfort and excitement in buying team shirts and hats so she and her mother could dress identical for the game.
We’ve had a new motto around our house since Katelyn came home: “Never underestimate the heart of a champion.” Her bravery and her ability to not change herself because of this accident sounds like a true champion to me. Thank you Grasshoppers.