The High Desert Mavericks is a Single-A Minor League professional baseball team that has played in a stadium near our home for 20 years now. In all that time, Jim never missed a home opener (the first home game of the season, in the first half of April each year), including the team's first, championship season, which he covered for the local paper. Even after he left that employ in June 1992, he followed the team, often covering it for the paper with which he had the longest association -- on and off for nearly 30 years -- the San Bernardino County Sun. Sometimes, we attended Mavs games just for fun, as simple fans.
He was even there in 2008 and 2009, in his wheelchair, with me.
This year we did the next best thing. Last Thursday, April 15, 2010, several of us -- mostly his close relatives, but also a few of his/my friends who had been in touch with me during the preceding month -- sat together at the HardBall Cafe (actually outside seating around restaurant-like tables, with waitress service from adorable young women). That was after I threw out the first, honorary/ceremonial pitch in his name, wearing a team jersey and his favorite ballcap, both black-and-red.
We sang, we danced, we cheered, we reminisced, we even watched the game a little. Everyone signed a souvenir program for me, ditto with the two foul balls that found their way to our section, one landing close to me, one close to his mom.
And, even though everyone knows that there's no crying in baseball, I did shed a few tears, as I do every day.
Back in fall 1991, after the team won the California League, I framed Jim's two companion articles. The team's management very kindly suggested that we hang the piece up in the general manager's office. Soon, I have to write a thank-you note and also suggest that we leave it up for a while; maybe they'll agree to keep it there all season.