The gift moved by wire and satellite, leaving a saltwater trail. It came from a field on the edge of the Cascade Mountains and traveled around the world. The gift was a story. It began with a hanging curveball and ended with a strange, slow procession. It gave gooseflesh to a phys-ed teacher in Pennsylvania, made a market researcher in Texas weak in the knees, put a lump in the throat of a crusty old man in Minnesota. It convinced a cynic in Connecticut that all was not lost.
At an office in the South, one woman tried to tell another woman the story but cried so much that the second woman had to find the details on the Internet, and then she cried too. At an office in the North, a 250-pound man was wiping his eyes when a colleague walked in, so he lied and said his contacts were bothering him. At a trucking company in the Midwest, a jaded executive cried the first time he read the story and then went back and read it again, because it made him feel so wonderful.
Yes, men cried. As much as women, maybe more: a retired cop in upstate New York, his body confused by conflicting orders from his nervous system; a fire-protection engineer in Washington State, his heart rate and blood pressure soaring and plunging; a biology professor in Montana, his breath coming in long sighs; a self-described redneck logger in Oregon, warm water running in rivulets down his cheeks.
The economy was faltering then, in the spring of 2008. Gasoline was $3.56 a gallon. We were five years and 4,000 dead soldiers into Iraq. The story jolted us back to sanity, people said, and restored our faith, and reminded us that goodness and decency and honor still exist.
All it took was an improbable swing by a .153 hitter.
A broken strand of connective tissue.
A situation with no clear precedent.
And an astonishing proposal from a young woman named Mallory.
What a fantastic person you are!