I grew up in a family that loved baseball. To be a Detroit Tigers fan was a way of life. For a long time growing up, I thought the only channel my parents’ TV got was ESPN. I still remember my first Tigers game with my dad. He wanted to take us to the old Tiger Stadium before they started playing at Comerica Park. He wanted us to experience the history of that stadium, to see the park he grew up knowing. I remember walking in thinking it was the most absolutely disgusting thing I had ever seen. It literally looked like it was falling down! It was dirty, smelled funny and was somewhat dark and gloomy from what I could see behind the bleachers. I was about 10-years-old or so, I think, and I remember my dad looking down and laughing at my scrunched up nose and look of disgust. He knelt down to my level, and with a smirk and twinkle in his eye he said. “Just wait until you see the green.” It was then that we rounded the corner and got our first look at the field. It was like it didn’t belong. That bright, green grass under those big lights! We saw the players so close up and heard the ball and bat connect and the screams that would follow. The vendors were screaming, “Hot dog, get your hot dog!” I was mesmerized! I still remember my dad looking at me and my siblings smiling.
That was the only game I went to with my dad, but the impression it made on me was forever stamped on my heart. When I was young, I couldn’t appreciate baseball on TV…it was long and boring. After going to the park, I realized that it is a game to watch live. One of the hardest things about losing my dad when I was young is that he didn’t see the Tigers fan I grew to be. He would have enjoyed my love for the game, and I know we would have shared many games together.
When my dad’s Uncle Howard asked us to attend a Tigers game with the family and bring Crue, I was so excited. A little side note about my uncle Howard: if he asks you to go to a game, he means to watch from a suite! Perfect for Crue, because he would be able to run around. There is no way at his age we could have gotten regular tickets and expected him to sit still. As I dressed Crue in his Tigers gear the day of the game, I started to feel overwhelmingly sad. I’m not sure if it was the nostalgia of going with my dad, the pain of never having this memory with Nash, or the excitement to share something like this with Crue, but I felt extremely emotional.
During the whole drive there, I kept telling Todd that I was feeling emotional for some reason. I wanted to warn him of any upcoming breakdowns. I think a lot of it had to do with waiting for this day for so long. I knew I would take my children to the ballpark one day. I couldn’t wait…after three years of trying to have Nash, then losing him, getting pregnant again and finally being in a position where I can take my own child to a game….. it’s a check off my parent bucket list. I remember going to the park when we were trying to get pregnant and being so envious of all the families there. I wanted so bad to be one of them.
We parked the truck and headed towards the park. I put Crue on my shoulders, and we made our way through downtown. I took it all in. One of those moments you want to remember and cherish always. The familiar drums playing on the street, the hundreds of Tigers fans making their way to the park. I gave Crue his ticket to hand to the ticket collector. The man smiled as Crue gave him a very serious look as he reluctantly handed over his ticket to be scanned. I watched him as he looked at the huge park, the wonder in his eyes…I could smell the hot dogs and hear the vendors screaming, “Ice cold beer!” The chant of “Let’s go Tigers” sounded in the background, and the lump in my throat was getting harder to ignore. I can’t explain how much I felt my dad in that moment. Looking at Crue, I know I felt how my dad must have felt. There is nothing like experiencing something you love through the eyes of your child.
Todd was way ahead of me with my nephews as we were finding our way to the suite. Out of nowhere, Craig Monroe (an former player for the Tigers who now is an announcer) walked by me, and I could think of nothing to say but an excited, “Hey!” He looked a little startled and said hey back and shook my hand and smiled. I began grabbing for my diaper bag that had Nash bear inside, but more people came up and started talking to him. I decided to not take him out of the bag. I smiled at Craig, and he smiled back as I walked off. I caught up with Todd and told him that he would never believe what just happened. It had already been such a strange morning, and it seemed to be getting stranger by the minute.
As we entered the suite, we were greeted by about 20 family members. Crue was doing great until he saw a tub of popcorn on the counter, then it became quite the event trying to distract him from it. I have always been afraid of him choking on popcorn, so I wasn’t about to let him have any. In the end though, I found out he does okay eating popcorn. It was the only way to keep him happy. I can’t explain it, but I felt my dad and Nash from the minute I walked into the park. I knew they were there with us. I watched Crue as he sat on his dads lap looking out over the field. The wonder in his eyes and the joy on Todd’s face made me smile, and I admired the view for quite sometime.
At one point, Crue was out on the balcony with us. He became restless on our laps, so I sat him down on the steps next to us. Music started playing and he grinned, laughed and started dancing. He then started pointing to the steps behind him and I looked down to see a small rainbow. I gasped! As he started dancing and laughing, four more small rainbows danced across his skin, and at times would form an x on the steps behind him. Todd and I just smiled at each other and got out our phones to record a video. As I went to share it on Facebook, a friend had posted,”Make sure you take him to get his certificate for his first game.” I didn’t know that was something the park did, and I was excited at the thought of having a certificate marking his first game. It also gave me a chance to get him away from the popcorn! They gave us a folded up poster and a certificate and we walked away.
Crue was such a handful that I didn’t get a chance to even look at the poster. All in all, the game was amazing. We spent it with family and that was worth the crippling loss that made the Tigers one step closer to not making the playoffs. We said our goodbyes, packed up Crue and my nephews, and headed out of the park. As I got in the truck, I smiled, I just felt….good. The boys had a great time, we had a great time. I looked at the back seat at all of them smiling and laughing and felt a slight tug at my heart and lump in my throat because Nash wasn’t there. I opened the poster and looked at the player, #9. Just in case I needed yet another sign that Nash was there, he made sure I got it. It makes sense that he would give me so many signs at a place I have always considered my little piece of heaven on earth.
Remember, the 9th is my dad’s birthday too. They share a birthday and apparently a love for Tigers baseball as well. There are so many days where I minimize the signs Nash gives me. I try to reason and make sense of them. To wash them away as coincidence. Is it a coincidence that the rainbows appeared through the glass of the balcony and cast their glow over Crue and no one else? Is it a coincidence that the poster he got at his first game was that of #9? Is it a coincidence that that Monroe’s number was 27 and when you add those numbers together it equals nine? Maybe that one is a stretch. I’d like to believe there are no coincidences. That these are signs my baby gives me to let me know he is never far.
What I have learned with my experience is that if you are open to the signs you will see them, and if you’re not, you won’t. I choose to be open to them, and because of this I see pieces of Nash everywhere. In the sky I see rainbows, on the 9th I see kindness. On the radio I hear the cowboy song and at the park I see the number nine…nine players and nine innings. When these moments hit me, I let myself go where they take me. Whether it’s a smile, a laugh or even a good cry…I let myself have that moment.But on this day, no matter how big the lump in my throat got, I didn’t shed one tear…why? Because there is no crying in baseball.