Tossing a young fan a ball at a baseball game is a gesture that seems so simple but is anything but. For the player, it’s easy. All you have to do is hand one of a million baseballs you’ll touch over the course of your career to a kid who looks like he would kill for it. For the recipient, it is an experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives.
When Marlins reliever Chris Hatcher flipped a ball to Joseph Hjelmstad’s 13-year-old son at Wrigley Field earlier this season, it obviously meant a great deal to him. Hjelmstad is a First Sergeant in the U.S. military who is currently serving a second stint overseas. He and his son, Joey, went to the Cubs-Marlins games just before Hjelmstad was deployed for the second time. After Hatcher gave Joey the souvenir, he and Hjelmstad chatted for a few moments.
“I remember him giving me the rundown [at the game],” Hatcher told the Miami Herald. “He told me he was about to get sent back over. I said ‘Are you serious? I’ve heard that before.’ He said, ‘When you asked it showed you actually cared about the troops.’ So, I flipped his son a ball. Then this showed up today.”
The “this” that Hatcher was referring to is the American flag Hjelmstad sent him in the mail. The flag came with a certificate of authenticity explaining that it had been taken 780 miles on patrol through Iraq in late August.
“I’m going to hang it proudly,” Hatcher explained. “What else can I do? What those guys are doing for us — they’re giving us freedom. We’re worried about strikeouts. They’re worried about ducking and covering.”
More often than not, fans feel cheated when a player doesn’t toss them a ball. After all, those guys are so spoiled and make so much money playing a game that they should care more about the fans, right? It took no effort at all for Hatcher to flip Hjelmstad’s son a baseball, but it’s nice to see how much of an impression it made on the U.S. solider.Google+