Friday, June 5, 2015
When Baseball is More than Baseball
During a year of success on the field with their first trip to the state semi-finals in 50 years the Highlands High School baseball team has truly weathered a tumultuous year. Easy to be lost amongst all of this attention and pressure, both positive and negative, is the human element. Mitchell Jones, senior starter for the Bluebirds, provides us with the feel-good story of the season to remind us of just what impact athletes can have beyond the diamond.
Kai Anderson is a 6-year-old Kindergarten student at Johnson Elementary School. At the age of four he could rattle off the names, positions, and statistics of current and former members of the Cincinnati Reds. His penchant for statistics only surpassed by his powerful baseball swing, Kai is best described as "obsessed" with America’s pastime.
So, when Jones, a real-life baseball player for Kai’s future high school team rang his doorbell to sell coupons for a baseball fundraiser, suffice it to say Anderson was awe-struck. Kai’s mother, Emily Anderson, (after buying a coupon book) struck up a conversation with Jones while Kai stood by, ending it by asking Jones if the HHS Baseball Cap he was wearing was for-sale. Jones was unsure and the exchange ended. However, the budding friendship between young Kai Anderson and senior Mitchell Jones did not.
About six weeks later, Jones returned with a knock wielding a hat. After handing it to Emily, he told her he was so struck by Kai’s passion for the sport that he and the team wanted to give him the hat to cheer the Bluebirds on. Anderson was so impressed by Jones’ compassion that she emailed the coach and Jones’ mother regarding his gesture. So impressed was Kai that he began regularly attending some of the Highlands baseball games.
After the final home game of the regular season, in which Jones pitched, Jones asked Kai to come out on to the field (wearing his baseball cap, of course) for a picture standing on the pitcher’s mound. Again, Emily Anderson was struck by the kindness of the gesture for her son, an avid 6-year-old fan whom Jones had only met while selling a coupon
However, the story did not end there. Kai, a star player in his own right for the Martin & Associates Crushers, and his teammates were preparing for their Friday night game when who to their surprise should arrive to cheer the team on but Jones and six of his fellow teammates including Donnie Mills, Joe Martin, Kenny Ball, Todd Ramey, Ethan Doty and Lou Bunning.
This group of seven young men stayed for the entire game cheering on Kai and the Crushers. Trinity Walsh, who has a son on the team, said of this sight, “While these boys could have easily been out and doing normal high school Friday night ‘things’, they chose to come to Rossford Field and cheer on the Crushers; yet another reason why everyone should be cheering on the Birds at State this week.” Walsh went on to describe the group as “a classy group of young men.”
When Jones was asked why he went so far out of his way for a young fan, he responded as follows: “Well, it personally didn’t seem like a major gesture. I looked at him and kind of pictured me at that age. Young and already obsessed with baseball. He wanted a hat so I figured I'd do what any other person in my shoes would do and got him a hat. And seeing how happy he was when I got him the hat really made my day but I hope I made his more. He's almost like a little brother to me now. And I wanted all of my teammates to be like older brothers to him too, so we all went to one of his games. We all already know he's going to be great and can't wait to see him in a Highlands uniform one day.”
Well Kai already has the baseball cap, the perfect baseball card picture, and now the great starter story to boot thanks to Jones and his teammates.