Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When Great Things Happen to Great People

My nine-year-old son Jake has a friend named Ryan. For the last few years, Jake has followed Ryan's career as a star high school baseball and basketball player. We live on the street that leads to our local high school, so Jake and his dad walk up the hill to watch every game that's played at the school. And like both his grandfathers, my son has never met a stranger. He makes friends everywhere we go just by taking the time to have a chat with someone he finds interesting.

After every game, Jake would wait patiently for the opportunity to shake hands with Ryan and to compliment his performance on the field or court. Ryan always made time for Jake, and over the years, the two became friends. Ryan was heavily recruited as a standout athlete and was offered an athletic scholarship to Vanderbilt University in Nashville earlier this year. He went to visit the school, and brought back T-shirts for all his friends. We noticed the high school boys wearing the shirts on a Saturday morning this past winter when they were serving as officials in Jake's youth basketball league. That afternoon, Jake and his dad went to watch the varsity team play a home game. As always, Jake waited to say hello to Ryan after the game. "Hey, buddy," Ryan said. "Come here. I've got something for you." He handed Jake a yellow, kid-sized Vanderbilt T-shirt. Jake was thrilled and overwhelmed by the gesture (in fact, a few days later, I had to take the shirt off him to wash it!). We have a great photo of the two of them together that Jake will cherish forever.

In June, Ryan Westmoreland graduated from high school and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Yes, you read that right. The home team came a'calling, and Ryan faced the decision of a lifetime. Around town, people debated the pros and cons. What should he do? Go to college? Say yes to the Sox? What if he gets hurt in college? What if, what if? It was a tough decision, but a win-win no matter how you looked at it. Last week came the word that he had accepted a five-year, $2 million deal with the Sox. Jake was thrilled for his friend. Jake's parents were thrilled to see a nice, down-to-earth kid come out on top. Later this summer, Ryan is expected to play for a Red Sox farm team in Lowell, Massachusetts, which is about two hours from our house. Jake and his dad will be there, and Jake will hope for the chance to say hello, and to let Ryan know that one of his biggest fans is still thrilled to watch him play the game they both love.

In announcing the deal with the Sox, The Providence Journal's headline said "Sox Are Getting a Man of Character in Westmoreland." We couldn't agree more.


Ashlyn Chase said...

This is a terrific example of how a compliment can really mean the world to someone. Most of us don't give them out enough.

And I love the phrase "He's never met a stranger." How perfect is that? I tend to enjoy meeting new people and will start up a conversation. You can really meet some terrific folks that way.


Judi Fennell said...

OMG - what a thrill not only for Ryan but for your son, too! Now he's seen his friend AND his mom's dream come true, proving a strong work ethic can pay dividends.

Congrats to ALL of you!

Marie Force said...

Hi Ash,
Thanks for stopping by. Yes, you are so right. A small gesture can mean so much to someone. We were enormously impressed by such thoughtfulness from a then 17-year-old boy.

Jake never has met a stranger he couldn't find some common ground with. It's truly his gift in life. You will meet him at my party. He'll be the blue-eyed, blond-haired charmer helping to keep his mother's books stacked up for signing!

Marie Force said...

Hi Judi! It was a huge thrill for all of us to see this very deserving kid come out on top. From all accounts there is no downside to him. Everyone loves him, especially Jake, who is soooo proud of his buddy.

pam said...


What a great post. So excited for the Sox too, sounds like they drafted a great person as well as athlete.

:) Pam