Here’s to the joy-bringers

Upon our return from a ballgame in Harrisburg, PA—more on that further on—I found a package in our mailbox from Marisa Messina of Philadelphia. For a second, I stood there pondering, but then I realized what it contained—two West Chester University Golden Rams shirts for Al and me. It contained shirts, but it was a package of joy.

You may recall from my June 14 post about the Division II College World Series, that we were adopted by the West Chester parents because when we walked over to their side of the stands, the Golden Rams immediately scored their first run of the game and now trailed by only two, 3-1. We were informed that we couldn’t leave as we had obviously brought the team good luck. An inning or two later, West Chester scored again and the parents were beginning to view us as two rabbit’s feet. Marissa, and her family whom we had met the night before in Danny’s Barbecue, now dared to hope that the Golden Rams might even come all the way back and take the lead. They’re West Chester fans because son, Joe pitches for WCU.

“If we come back and tie this game [notice, it was we, now], you’re going to owe us a couple of shirts!” I joked.

“Well, you’re going to get ‘em!” Marisa responded. I told her I was just kidding, but with a smile, yet quite seriously, she said, “No, I’m sending you guys shirts. It will bring me great joy to do that. What’s your address?”

The shirts have been delivered, and the joy we had rooting for West Chester that day has been multiplied.

As I said, the shirts were waiting for us after returning from Harrisburg, where it was Gregg Mace Bobblehead Night at FNP Park. Gregg was the sports director for ABC 27 for 40 years before dying of cancer in 2019. Our daughter, Sarah, went to work for ABC 27 in 2018 and she and Gregg immediately formed a close connection. She referred to Gregg as her “TV Dad” and we were always grateful that he took such a strong interest in our fledgling reporter. The Harrisburg Senators, a team he had covered since the team moved to the Pennsylvania capital in 1987, inducted Gregg into its Hall of Fame. The mentor to so many Sarahs had his life-sized bobblehead unveiled along the left field concourse Saturday, and the first 1,000 fans received a regular-sized bobblehead. Sarah, of course, wanted to go and so did Martha and I. Sarah remains close to Gregg’s wife, Caroline, and their son Kyle and helps with the Gregg Mace Foundation, an organization that “aims to provide scholarships and mentoring to students interested in pursuing a career in sports media,” according to the website.

Sarah and Gregg had their photo on the scoreboard, Opening Day at FNP Park, April 2019.

We wanted to honor Gregg by just being there, but, of course, I wouldn’t truly be honoring Gregg if I didn’t announce the following: The Senators beat the Altoona Curve, 2-1, at FNB Field behind 6.1 innings of outstanding pitching from Luis Reyes. Harrisburg scored single runs in the 2nd and 3rd for the victory.

And there was more. It turned out that our seats were five rows behind Allyn Gibson, a friend of mine. We got connected when he read Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley. He had already emailed me to say that he knew Sarah had worked for ABC 27 and that if we couldn’t make the game, he would be glad to give her his bobblehead. As it turned out a diehard fan in the next section arrived too late to receive one and Allyn gave her his. And when his scorecard contained a lucky number, he turned around and gave that to us. In case you see Martha walking around in a Harrisburg Senators t-shirt, you’ll know how she came by it.

A great deal of joy was passed around on Saturday. To Marissa and Gregg and Allyn, thank you.

And to all the joy bringers out there, don’t stop doing what you do. So often, even momentary connections create life-long memories and small gestures become large treasures.

The 7th inning portended a storm, but it passed and as we exited the stadium, we turned to see this, which seemed to sum up our day.

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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6 Responses to Here’s to the joy-bringers

  1. Bonnie Lane says:

    What a lovely story, Austin! 🙂


  2. Becky says:

    Some of life’s warmest moments happen around baseball.


  3. Allyn says:

    The sunsets at FNB Field the last few weeks have been glorious. I’m leaving for a baseball game tonight in Lancaster in about ten minutes, and I’m not expecting a spectacular sunset there tonight; it’s been overcast all day in the Susquehanna Valley.

    It was great seeing you again — five years! — and I’m glad I was able to meet Martha and Sarah. I know you’ll give the Senators t-shirt a good home. 🙂


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