One of my most prized baseball collectibles has a dream-come-true story behind it. On an evening in May during the 2007 Chicago White Sox season I was watching a game and an announcement of a contest caught the attention of my eyes and ears. WGN Television, which is a local station to us here in the Chicago area, was hosting a Pepsi fan can contest. In order to enter you were to create a decorated Pepsi can with a theme of either the Chicago White Sox or the Chicago Cubs. The top entry for either team would win four tickets to a game and the chance to throw out the first pitch. This unique opportunity would be a dream come true. I vowed then and there I was going to enter and win! It had always been a dream of mine since I was a young girl to be able to be on that baseball field some day. This was a chance of a lifetime to live that dream.
After some glued together fingers with Gorilla Glue and three weeks of continued construction later, I completed my entry. I sent in the required pictures and information requested to WGN. I was very anxious and hopeful about my contest entry. About two months had passed since my submission and everyday life kept me from thinking about it constantly. To my surprise one day, while I was at work, I received a phone call from WGN Television. I was chosen to be one of the top three finalist for the submitted White Sox entries. The winner was going to be chosen live on the air during the noon news broadcast. I would be on the air at the WGN Studios in Chicago with my decorated Pepsi can along with the two other White Sox entries as well as the three Cubs entries. I was so shocked and utterly excited. I was a finalist and I was going to be on live television!
I can’t believe it! I am on TV!
The day of my appearance on WGN News at Noon I was extremely nervous. My boss had even given me the day off and had the whole office ready to be watching me live. Almost everyone I knew was sending me text messages that day telling me that they watched me on television. It was a fun experience to be apart of a news broadcast and WGN was very welcoming to all of us who competed. The Pepsi cans were judged by Chicago Cubs announcer Len Kasper and the Chicago White Sox Mascot Southpaw. When Southpaw picked my can I was in utter shock and my reaction was slightly subdued to a “Yay!” and a little clapping. Even Len Kasper made it a point to come up and congratulate me and tell me how impressive my can was after the show aired. It did not hit me until I was in the car heading back home that I just won the opportunity of a lifetime! I remember screaming and cheering in my car like something you might see in a comedic movie. At one point I even remember getting that emotional lump in my throat. I was so happy!
The Nerves Settle In
On September 30, 2007 my brother, myself, and two friends attended what would be one my most memorable days at U.S. Cellular Field. Not only did WGN provide me with amazing seats right behind home-plate, but the White Sox made us feel extra special as well. They escorted myself and those who accompanied me behind the scenes and on to the field. We stood there for at least 15 minutes while we waited .
The Chicago White Sox Public Relations Assistant who walked us onto the field gave me instructions and let me know I who I would be throwing the pitch out to. Many sports fans might recall Mark Buehrle throwing a no-hitter earlier in the 2007 season. Well my luck would have it that I would get to throw my pitch out to Buehrle himself. This of course made me more nervous. The nerves began to try to settle in and I was having a battle within myself to keep cool. I remember the PR assistant for the White Sox telling me not to be nervous. I responded, “I am throwing to “No-Hitter” Mark Buehrle and he is one of my favorite pitchers. How can I not be nervous?” Of course she chuckled at my response and told me I would do fine.
I was in awe of what was going on in that divine moment in my life. The experience of being right there in the heart of all that goes on at the beginning of games was amazing. We were standing right next to the White Sox dugout. All my favorite players were walking right past me and some were at times directly in front of me. I think my insides were flipping over each time a player ran by me. Ozzie Guillen and Joey Cora were standing right there within my reach. This experience was completely surreal for me. It really was a White Sox fanatic’s dream come true!
The First Pitch
Once I seen Mark Buehrle come out I could feel my hands trembling. I practiced for one month straight before I threw out that pitch and I hoped I did not mess it up during the moment of truth! The PR assistant looked at me and said, “OK it is your turn.” She handed me an official Major League baseball. My heart was racing and I walked to the front of the mound where they told me to stand.
The PA announcer, Gene Honda, let 30,000 plus people know I was throwing out the pitch and my name was on the outfield jumbo-tron. Once I reached the front of the mound I looked straight ahead. Right in front of me, 60 feet away, was Mark Buehrle with his glove ready. At that moment my heart dropped to my stomach. I took a deep breath and with all my might I reared back like I was some kind of professional pitcher and I threw that ball as hard as I could. I even have a snap shot that The White Sox took of me in pitch formation. I gave it my all.
Unfortunately the baseball did not make right in to the glove. I felt it come out of my hands wrong as I released it and my trembling fingers did not help. However, the baseball bounced right in front of Buehrle for easy retrieval. It was not the best pitch but I did not let that spoil the moment.
A Collectible That Will Always Take Me Back
The baseball that I threw to Mark Buehrle was mine to keep for a lifetime of triggered memories now. Buehrle signed the baseball and took a picture with me. I can’t tell you how extremely happy and in admiration I was during this entire time. Honestly I felt like a writer that was at a loss of descriptive words. My brain was frozen in fascination.
My autographed ball is now is in a protective holder on my mantle. I look at it everyday. Every time I view it I go back to that amazing day. When ever I feel down or I need a little inspiration to keep going, a glance at that ball reminds me to believe in determination, to be happy, and always be appreciative. Along with my Robin Ventura bat, which I mentioned in a previous story, my Mark Buehrle autographed baseball is one of my most prized pieces of baseball memorabilia I own.
(Be sure to click on the number two above the photo for an additional image of the Pepsi Fan Can Contest Entry.)