A Dream in a Baseball Hat
Haven't posted anything in a while, so i thought i'd put up a story i just wrote for an english assigment. It's kinda long, but hey, deal with it.
By: Jon Neely
Not one person in the crowd was sitting, 95,000 strong all cheering at the top of their lungs. I had finally made it; I was standing in the middle of my lifelong dream. At 28, I’d long given up on the thought of having a chance to stand where I was, but I was actually here, I pinched myself to see if it was all real. I looked at everything around me and smiled. I smiled at the thought of how I had made it, how everything I had ever done in life came down to this one moment. I smiled as I turned my head and got into the pitcher’s stance. This was it.
July 23, 1978, the year Bryan Turner O’Neill came into this world in the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. My parents and I lived in a small house on Patterson Street around the corner from the convenience store. Mom worked at the local old folks home about 6 miles up the road, and dad was a construction worker at Smithson Construction Co. I grew up as a normal kid would. Money wasn’t coming out of our ears by any means, but we had enough to be happy. Two years into my life, Stevie came into the picture. This cute blue-eyed, brown-haired mischief maker was my little brother and we soon became the best of friends. As the years went by we grew older and tried new things.
At age 6 Dad was convinced I was a future football all-star and quickly signed me to try out for the county’s junior team. A broken arm and a bruised ego later it was decided that was not my sport of choice. Six months later he had me and Stevie signed up for soccer tryouts, but just as the football had gone, this didn’t turn out in our favour either. We soon accepted the fact that sports just weren’t for us, and that we would stick to the sidelines. I never really paid much attention to sports after that and went on in life happy as ever without it, happy as ever until the day I fell in love. May 12, 1986, a day I will never forget as long as I live.
Walking home from school through the normal path and across Rockdale Park’s baseball field I found something that day that single handedly changed my life, a baseball hat. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It was black, but covered in dirt and grass from the field and slightly faded from obvious years on its previous owner. I picked it up and saw that it was a New York Yankees hat; I knew this team because Dad had always hated them, saying they were highly over-paid and won too many championships. As I went to put the hat on, I noticed written on the inside, a few words. “Never stop chasing the dream.” I smiled to myself, put the hat on and went and stood on the pitchers mound of the field. I held my head up high and shut my eyes. I imagined a huge crowd of screaming fans cheering my name as I pitched for the Yankees. I went through the motions a pitcher goes through as he readies himself. I tilted my head to the ground, took in a deep breath and opened my eyes. I looked towards the batters box, and stared it down as if I owned the batter who was up next. I imagined a ball in my hand, and wound up to throw. As my arm flung through the air I could almost feel the Yankee fans at the stadium chanting and waiting with bated breath to see what I did. The ball seemed to rocket out of my hand and fly straight over the plate, slamming against the back fence. I stood motionless, completely in another world as I closed my eyes again with a huge grin on my face, imagining the team running towards me in celebration. “Never stop chasing the dream huh?” I said smiling, and from that day on I was in love with the New York Yankees.
For the next 5 years that hat did not leave my sight. I slept with it, I ate with it, I played with it, I did it all with that hat. It was a part of me, as were the Yankees. I had started watching their games after that day in the park, and soon I knew every player and every stat and never missed a game. They were the love of my life, I didn’t care what was happening during a game, and I just had to see them play. I kept telling dad that I would one day be standing on the mound at Yankee stadium, (mainly to bug him because of his extreme hatred for my team) but I didn’t really believe I would actually get there.
As the years went by I grew up, got through high school and the Yankees hat eventually found its way to my closet, but I still obsessed over the Yanks. I managed to get myself into the University of Denver for Medical Studies and graduated in 2001 with an Honour’s Degree. I still did my best to stay in touch with my Yankees while the school work piled up, checking the scores any way I could when I wasn’t able to catch a game. I landed a job at a small clinic near my parents house, but quickly found it to be slow and wasn’t really what I was looking for, I needed something better. I started working at Denver Community Hospital downtown and slowly moved up the ranks until I was able to work full-time in the hospitals injury rehabilitation centre helping people recover from minor and serious injuries. I loved it, and basically lived at work leaving little time for my baseball team, although any time I wasn’t working I always checked up on how they had been doing the past week.
Life was moving along smoothly, I was making a fair amount of money and even though work was occupying most of my time, it was still enjoyable and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Well, until everything changed again on May 27, 2004. I came into work at around 6:30am to get ahead on some paper work I had to complete by the end of the week when I was met at the door by Jim Thompson, the director of operations of the rehabilitation centre.
“Ever been to New York?” he said, catching me off guard a little.
“Uh, no sir I haven’t, why?” I replied, wondering where this was headed.
“A new sports injury facility is opening up there in a month and they’re recruiting some of the best to go and work, we were asked to submit names and records of who we thought might fit the job, and we sent your name in.” I didn’t know what to say. New York City, the Big Apple and the home of my beloved New York Yankees. I looked at him confused, even though I had already made my decision; I was going to New York.
Six weeks later I was standing at the front desk of Manhattans Sports Injury Rehabilitation Centre, welcoming the first patients. The job was incredible, more than I could ever imagine. The pay was great, and by great I mean double what I was making before, and the loft I bought downtown was perfect. Once again I thought to myself that life couldn’t get much better and once again I was very, very wrong.
While moving from Denver to New York, I had found that Yankees hat in my closet at my parent’s house, and decided that since I was going to the home of the Broncs Bombers, I might as well bring the hat that started the love affair. I displayed it, along with many other memorabilia of the Yankees in the office and waiting room of the Centre. It was the first thing I looked at every morning when I walked into work. Since I was actually living in New York now, watching a Yankee’s game was much easier for me, and the obsession quickly came back. Two years into the job, on just another morning at work, the door opened and the cheesy bell rang as it usually did. I looked up from my work and my mouth hit the floor. Standing in front of me was Derek Jeter, star short stop of the New York Yankees, my New York Yankees.
I couldn’t breathe as he started to walk towards me. When he got to me I felt faint and almost passed out right there in front of him.
“You doctor O’Neill?” he asked, chewing his gum slowly.
“Hi” was all I could get out. ‘Hi’ was all I could say to the star player from the team I had loved since I was eight, I looked up at him sheepishly.
“I hear you’re the best, and I need your help” he stated. I almost died.
“Follow me,” I managed to squeak out and motioned him to follow me down the hall. Turned out he needed a quick and effective recovery to a nagging knee injury he had sustained in training camp earlier that year. He had somehow heard that I was the best, and whether or not that was true was beside the point; Derek Jeter was standing in my office. I started working with him five times a week for a month, and over that time we began to strike up a friendship.
One day he finally walked in to thank me for my help. He shook my hand, smiled and held out an envelope to me. I figured it was a thank you note or an extra tip for my service or something, but what he gave my might as well have been solid gold. Four tickets to a Yankees game, front row seats right beside the dugout, and the game was next week against Colorado. I went into sheer excitement mode, thanked him repeatedly as he left laughing at my child-like behaviour, and immediately got on the phone when he left. First I called an airline company then I called my parents. I told them I had booked them and Stevie a plane to New York next week and that they were coming to see a Yankees vs. Rockies game. I told them it wasn’t up for debate, they were coming and we were watching this game as a family.
Two days before the game they arrived and I met them at the airport and drove them to my loft. They settled in and mom began going around telling me what I needed to paint, what I needed to clean and so on, while dad and my brother argued over where we were going to go out for dinner. They were more excited to see the city than the game itself, but I hadn’t slept since the day Derek had given me the tickets, and the game was so close. The day before the game, I took my family to see my office. They loved it and were happy that I was doing so well for myself up in the big city. My dad laughed at the array of Yankee attire I had around the office and felt he had to touch all of it, moving it out of its perfect positioning. When he saw the hat he couldn’t believe I still had it.
“You still chasing that silly dream of yours son, the pitching mound one or something?” he said jokingly.
“Ya dad, I’m still planning on pitching for the Yankees one day” I said laughing and we all walked out the door.
The night of the game was incredible. We arrived at the stadium two hours early just to take in the whole experience since it was our first live major league baseball game. I proudly wore my Yankees jacket and shirt while my dad wore his Colorado Rockies jacket just to make sure everyone knew he still hated the Yankees. About an hour before the game, Derek Jeter walked by our seats and noticed me in the stands; he waved and came over to talk. He invited us to come and take a tour of the locker room and meet some of the players. I of course was on cloud nine at this point and followed him like a five year-old child running after an ice cream truck. We got to see it all, the locker room, the training room, and the best part was we got to meet a bunch of the players as they were getting ready for the game.
Suddenly a man wearing a headset came running through the locker room in a panic-stricken state. The scheduled opening pitcher was the mayor of the city, but he had got caught up in some meeting and wasn’t going to be able to make it to the game in time for the pitch. The man was running all around talking to different people trying to figure things out when Derek spoke up.
“You say you need an opening pitcher eh?” he shouted across the room.
“Don’t think you’re throwing it Jeter, you’re a bad enough short stop, we don’t need you trying out for pitcher too!” yelled the Yankees coach, and the room erupted in laughter.
“I wasn’t thinking of me coach, but my buddy Bryan here. He’s the doctor who fixed me up so quickly, the guy I’ve been telling you about. Without him I wouldn’t be back this soon, if anyone deserves it, it’s him.” By the time I realized Derek had chosen me to pitch in the opening ceremonies I was already being prepped by the headset-wearing man as to where I should stand and what I had to do out there. My family had already been ushered back to their seats for the beginning of the game, and I stood under the seats waiting to be called out to the mound. My heart started to beat fast. This couldn’t be real could it? Was I really standing under Yankee stadium awaiting my name to be called to throw the opening pitch? Just before I went out, Derek ran by and patted me on the back; “good luck out there man,” he said. “Don’t screw up the throw eh!” I half-heartedly laughed back suddenly realizing the embarrassment I would sustain if I messed up a single throw on national television.
“Just breathe,” I said to myself over and over again, “just breathe.” When they announced me as the ceremonial opening pitcher I walked out and what I saw will take my breath away for the rest of my life.
Not one person in the crowd was sitting, 95,000 strong all cheering at the top of their lungs. I had finally made it; I was standing in the middle of my lifelong dream. At 28, I’d long given up on the thought of having a chance to stand where I was, but I was actually here, I pinched myself to see if it was all real. I looked at everything around me and smiled. I smiled at the thought of how I had made it, how everything I had ever done in life came down to this one moment. I smiled as I turned my head and got into the pitcher’s stance. This was it. I remembered that day as a kid standing on the mound in that park, imagining then what I was living now. I looked over at the Yankee bench and Derek gave me the thumbs up, I nodded back, smiling bigger than ever. I turned towards my family in the crowd, my brother looking at me laughing and my mother blowing kisses over and over again. My dad then stood up and took off his jacket, revealing a New York Yankees jersey with the name O’Neill on the back. He bent over and picked up a hat, a Yankees hat, my old Yankees hat, he must have grabbed it from the office when we visited. He put it on and winked at me, an image I will never forget. I was smiling so big now that my cheeks began to hurt, but I didn’t care-I was too busy living out my childhood dream.
I turned back to the plate, tossed the ball up and down a few times, and then closed my eyes. I took in a deep breath and everything went silent, I went back to when I was a kid finding the hat, how that dirty old thing had gotten me to where I was standing. I pictured myself getting ready and throwing the ball completely alone in the park, with the feeling of thousands surrounding me. I opened my eyes, back in reality to find myself standing in front of a full house at Yankee Stadium. It was time. I waited one last minute to take in my surroundings and then bent down for the throw. I stared down at the catcher with that big grin on my face, feeling like that eight year-old kid and a big league player all at the same time. I glanced over at my dad again wearing that hat. He nodded and tapped the brim of the hat down, “sweet dream huh?” he mouthed to me and chuckled. I looked back at the catcher and wound up for the pitch, “never stop chasing it” I whispered, “never ever stop chasing the dream.”
keep it real homies.