We all could use a little good news considering these times.
On Friday morning, the radio blared of a murder of a pregnant woman, shortages of baby formula and food, high inflation levels and record-breaking gas price prices. And anyone that has a 401K or an IRA knows how much joy the last couple of months have been.
It’s downright depressing and you wonder where the joy in life has gone.
But every now and then you are rewarded by something small and maybe some of your faith in humanity is rewarded.
On May 3, it happened in a Major League ballpark north of the border.
Deep in the left-field bleachers of Toronto’s Rogers Centre, sat nine-year-old Derek Rodriguez with his family. In a sea of Blue Jays fans, Rodriguez had on a T-shirt with the number and name of his favorite player and opponent that night — the No. 99 of New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge.
So as luck — or maybe divine intervention — would have it, something special happened that night.
In the top of the sixth inning, Judge launched a drive into the second deck that landed a couple yards from Rodriguez.
Blue Jays fan Mike Lanzillotta came up with the ball and started to celebrate, but turned and gave the ball to Rodriguez. The youngster immediately burst into tears and threw a hug around Lanzillotta — like an embrace that you would see a soldier receive after a long tour of duty.
The whole thing was caught on the television broadcast and immediately went viral. It was the kind of thing that brought a tear to your eye, like when Kevin Costner’s character Ray Kinsella asks his dad to have a catch at the end of “Field of Dreams.”
It was a great moment, but it didn’t end there.
The following evening, the Yankees invited Rodriguez and his family, along with Lanzillotta and his wife back to the stadium.
In the Yankees dugout prior to the game, Rodriquez got to meet his hero. In awe, the youngster once again cried tears of joy and threw a hug around the waist of the 6-foot-7 Judge.
The Yankees slugger squatted down and interacted with both Derek, who still had on his No. 99 shirt, and his younger brother Cesar. He shook hands and spoke with Lanzillotta.
Judge would sign the home run ball that Rodriquez clutched and presented him with the pair of batting gloves. Lanzillotta also received a pair of batting gloves.
“That still gives me goosebumps to this day, to see little kids wearing my number, wearing my jersey,” Judge told reporters. “I used to be in his position, that little kid, rooting on my favorite players and teams. That was a pretty cool moment that I definitely won’t forget.”
Derek’s father, a native Venezuelan, has always been a Yankees fan and you can guess who his child is named after (hint: a Hall of Fame shortstop who wore pinstripes). Also touched, Yankees infielder Gleyber Torres, a Venezuela native, stopped by and signed a ball for Derek.
Lanzillotta, the father of two small children, was rewarded for his kindness as well. Blue Jays standout George Springer presented him with a pair of signed home and away Toronto jerseys.
And so two people who had never seen each other before last week, who come from way different backgrounds and who were rooting for different sides came together thanks to a gesture of kindness and gratitude.
Derek now calls Lanzillotta his “best friend” and the two plan to stay in touch.
That’s what sports can do in bringing people together and inspiring us to kindness. Some athletes, and their team’s public relations staff, get it.
There a plenty athletes out there who are performing these acts of kindness that aren’t caught on TV or splashed all over YouTube.
Instead, we often accentuate the negative with sports and that’s a shame.
With all of the world’s problems these days and the bickering that’s going on, we could stand a few more selfless acts. You never know how much a small gesture will affect one person and sometimes many more.
Joy, hugs, inspiration and friends, who couldn’t use more of those?