Some events in life are so incredible that they are emblazoned on the memory like a wonderful keepsake, no souvenirs required. We just recently celebrated such a milestone moment.
We were invited to attend a surprise party in honor of Sean Casey’s major league baseball career, as he is stepping down from life as a player and in to the suit of a commentator for Major League Baseball.
Sean’s wife Mandi and his sister Beth had sent us an invitation awhile back, and we were ecstatic to be included in such a momentous occasion. It was to remain a surprise from Sean.
We made hotel reservations in Pittsburgh, then counted down the days to the big event. I don’t mind admitting that I was worse than a child waiting for Christmas.
We met Sean Casey when he was a minor league player in Akron. I was sitting beside my daughter’s bed in Akron Children’s Hospital one day when this polite young man appeared at her door, asking if he could come in for a visit.
Because she was too ill to remember it, he came back the next day. And the next. He was friendly and kind and genuinely concerned about my little girl. He made arrangements for us to watch him play at the Akron Aeros stadium just across the street from the hospital.
As we settled in to spectacular front-row seats, the announcement came across the speakers — Sean Casey would not be playing that night, as he had been called up to the Cleveland Indians.
He remained on their roster that year and batted in the World Series.
I sent a thank-you card to the Cleveland Indians in his name, hoping he would somehow see it. I doubted he ever would.
One day, about a month later, a package arrived in our mailbox from Sean, with his autographed rookie Cleveland Indians cards for both Cort and Caroline enclosed, along with a nice letter, asking if we would please stay in touch.
All these years, through trades and injuries, we have. He is a dear friend to us.
The night of the party finally arrived. We rode a shuttle bus from our hotel along with other party-goers to Engine House 25, a restored Pittsburgh firehouse from the 1920s which is now a Roberto Clemente Museum and winery.
We were treated to an amazing tour of this storied place. Lou Gehrig had stayed in the firehouse in 1927 during the World Series with his best friend Zip Sloan, a fireman and former roommate from Columbia University. Each floor of the beautifully restored engine house is filled with beautiful photographs and encased memorabilia of Roberto Clemente’s impressive baseball career.
The highlight of the evening, of course, was Sean’s arrival. His sweet wife, Mandi, had told him they were attending a school fundraiser, and the way he was dragging his feet let us all know he was totally in the dark about the impending surprise.
When he walked in to shouts of “surprise!” he lit up like a little boy. It was absolutely awesome to be a part of such a wonderful, joyous evening.
I have long felt that our friendship with Sean Casey is the perfect story, reminding us that good often comes from trying, difficult times in this life. We are reminded to enjoy the journey, for blessings will arrive at the most unexpected times, walking in to our lives in the most unexpected ways.