Growing up, all I ever wanted was to one day be a Major League Baseball player. Now that I’m 25, it’s pretty clear that’ll never happen, but it doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget what it felt like to win the World Series … time and time again.
Because you see, when I was little, my mom was always up for a game of catch. On most nights, we’d grab our gloves, a few balls and a bat and head down to the tennis courts at our apartment complex. There, she would hit me fly balls and grounders until we were both ready to crumple from exhaustion.
Telling a little boy there’s no more baseball for the night is the surest way to break his heart. But for me, I relished it.
She’d take a ball in her glove, flip it up to herself and say, “Here we go,” before launching one last popup for me to catch. Once it was safely secured — no matter how many attempts it took to make sure we ended on just the right note — we’d both run full speed ahead toward one another. When we met, I’d throw myself into her arms and she’d spin me around, shouting, “We won the World Series. We won the World Series.”
I unexpectedly lost my mom this past Thursday, and these memories have played out in my head over and over again ever since. Sometimes they make me smile. Others, they make me cry. But every time, they make me think of what that closing ritual meant to her.
To Deborah Ketcham, winning the World Series wasn’t simply the end of a game of catch. It was the joy she felt from knowing she was the mother of two children, myself and my twin sister, Alysha.
The last two years or so, the majority of phone calls between my mom and I ended with some form of, “I’m so proud of you.” She always thought it was a big deal that I became a sports editor, and she loved nothing more than when I’d call and read my favorite stories to her over the phone.
I genuinely care about this community, and that’s all she needed to as well. My mom knew all about the Keegan Thompsons, Cara Goodwins and Andrew Winfreys. She’d recognize their names when I talked about them. She’d ask about them. She cared because I care, and that’s pretty special. It meant the world to me. I wish I would’ve told her just how much when I had the chance.
The last time I saw my mom was on Mother’s Day. We grabbed our gloves and made the short drive to Heritage Park to play catch. When we were done, she apologized because we were both a bit too old — and too big in my case — to reenact our World Series finale.
But I didn’t mind. It was just me, my mom and a game of catch. What more could I ask for?
To do it just one more time.
That’s not possible, which is terribly difficult for me to wrap my head around right now. I must admit, however, it’s been made slightly easier not only by the support of my family and friends, but by the many coaches, athletes and parents of this community I’ve come to know in my two years here.
My mom cared about Cullman County and the characters in it simply because I did, and in turn, I’ve seen just how many people in this community care about her just because I did, too.
And for that, I thank you.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.