After Jax died, people came out of the woodwork to give. Old friends from high school, acquaintances I forgot about and people I’ve never met scribbled cards, sent flowers and gifted money. The beauty of the human spirit wrapped us in a tight embrace when we needed it most. It was completely touching for us.
But a group of men I’ve never met in person stepped up in a shockingly, thoughtful way that touched me deeply with something I love – Angels baseball.
In 1998 I started a computer Strat-O-Matic 20-team baseball league with three friends. Remember, I’m a big baseball nerd. The four of us drafted players, traded for better ones and competed against seventeen computer teams in a 162-game season. Gradually the league expanded to 24 teams and other “human” owners settled in to run franchises in our Westside League.
The league is now in its 16th season of play. Owners have come and gone, leaving due to increased job responsibilities, a new addition to the family or lack of interest. But quite a few of today’s owners have participated in the league for several years. And while we only know each other from the internet, some of us have developed deep friendships as we mix in stories from our personal life between a brainstorm of mock rookie drafts, battling for a World Series championship and busting each other’s balls when our players start to suck in real life.
Led by Steve Jack – the league’s webmaster, my right-hand man and all around pot stirrer – this group of men put together funds and surprised me with an Angels jersey with “Jax” and the number 08 on the back, indicative of his birth year.
They also purchased a personalized brick that rests outside the front of Angels Stadium between the two large helmets. On the ground is a pitcher’s mound designed into the brick layout, and to the right of the mound lies the brick.
My buddy Ian and I set off to find the brick last night. It was opening night at Angels Stadium and we had tickets in our usual season seats in Section 240, Row A. But first, we needed to fuel up.
We hit up Del Taco for a quick bite before parking in our usual spot near Chapman and Eckhoff in Orange and hiking our usual trail under the 57 freeway overpass, over the Santa Ana riverbed and into the stadium’s parking lot. That’s my quesadilla. No, I didn’t spill water on it. It was that greasy. Now that’s impressive, even for Del Taco.
The packed stadium buzzed with anticipation and hope of an Angels season that will bleed into an October playoff run.The usual pomp and circumstances filled the outfield prior to the game, which turned out to be a crapfest for Angels fans.
Prior to taking our seats Ian and I scoured the bricked infield in search for the Westside League’s gift. All proceeds of the Angels Brick Program go to the Angels Baseball Foundation, which helps fund local and national youth organizations aimed at creating and improving youth programs in education, healthcare, arts and sciences.
Ian finally spotted the brick, which read his name and “Always Loved”. Jax’s interest in the Angels really started to pick up as he turned three. He sported an Angels hat or t-shirt often and his favorite player was Torii Hunter.
Four days before he died we went to a game with my wife’s family to celebrate Father’s Day with her grandpa. We had such a fun night as a family and Jax especially enjoyed watching a game from a baseball standpoint for the first time, and not just taking in the stimulation around him. We have a large canvassed photo in our living room of the five of us on that night. The brick memento ties together perfectly my love for the Angels, my love for Jax and my wish that he always be remembered.
The relationships I’ve built with these faceless baseball fans means more to me than my Boston Chowderheads winning another World Series. While it’s a virtual baseball world, we live real lives. And the support we’re able to offer each other in tragedy, sickness and the valleys of life make all the hours put in to run the league more than worthwhile.
Thank you Steve Jack and the Westside League.
Seth, this is absolutely awesome! What a amazing gift! I totally want to go to an Angels game now, mostly to find Jax’s brick, but I’d even stick around for a game!
P.S. That quesadilla looks delicious and disgusting all at the same time.
What a fabulous gift … one that will last almost forever.
What a blessing for you and your family. Knowing that Jax’s name is forever in a place that has brought and still brings you so much joy. A perfect match! We will have to go to a game this summer and check it out! Your in our thoughts and prayers always. Sharen
Oh! Can’t wait to see the brick this Saturday!
That was a very touching thing the WSL guys did for Jax. It was wonderful seeing the brick at Angel Stadium and knowing that it will always be there.
We have to look for the brick the next time we go to a game. We were there last night too. What great friends you have.
Fantastic! I understand the part how strangers oftentimes in Our lives will help each other…..I too belong to a site here where we discuss all sports with strat-o-matic the happy medium, most of us play the computerized versions of the old card n dice game(s) we played long ago…….sports as a medium often help us through the really hard times, we’re sure to experince, every now n again…..I love my anonmous friends! God Bless them all!
I saw your IM tonight and it reminded me to check out your blog…thank you for doing that. I’ve been BUSY this past week with school, baseball games and travel time, setting up our fundraiser, etc. Sitting down at the computer is something I do a lot, with most of my free time devoted to that, but this week I have had none. So again, thank you for the reminder.
I read the whole thing (Smiling Through Tearz). Started with the brick post, then from the beginning. I shed tears, my man. There’s just so many similarities between Jax and my son Bennett so far that it’s just crazy. Even the “goodoo” magic, we had to go through all of that too (I called it the “turkey baster method” by the way)……it’s just crazy.
I will never forget the day I found out about your son’s passing. It crushed me. You’re a faceless person on the internet, from some silly baseball league (that I value so much), but we had had a few conversations about our sons and……I just know we share the same love for them. Then, now, and forever.
I was at the park with my son. My wife was at work (she’s a nurse too). Summertime, I’m a teacher, I’m living the dream. I had already vowed to never be the “checking/playing on the phone all the time while the kid(s) are playing” parent, but my phone dinged, and I checked it real quick, and…….I read your e-mail…….and it felt like somebody punched me in the gut. I put the phone in my pocket and watched my son play…..and I cried. It tore me up.
I’ll end it here as I’ve teared up a couple times typing this…..I was already a great dad, but on that day, I’m not shitting you……..I became a better one.