The following morning Michele posted that his “Nonna” (grandmother on his mother’s side) had passed away. Sadness filled my heart for him since he was thousands of miles away from home and unable to grieve with his family in Venezuela. Rick and I headed out to Surprise where the Kansas City Royals were hosting the Milwaukee Brewers. We had a little time to kill before the game started so we headed over to the practice fields where I was hoping to see Bobby Witt Jr. in batting practice. We were very lucky that we met a guy named Gerald and his dad who were regulars at all the Royals spring training games. They showed us exactly where the KC practice fields were. When we got over there, I still wasn’t seeing any of the players that I wanted to see namely Bobby Witt Jr. so went up to a guy who looked like he knew what was going on. It turned out he really did know – he was J.J. Picollo, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Royals! I introduced myself and did a capsule version of how I knew Witt, Jr’s dad from when I worked the Texas Ranger charters when I was with Delta. JJ didn’t think Bobby Sr. was at spring training yet. About that time, Gerald ran up and said, “Bobby Witt Jr. is taking BP (batting practice) over there!”
As we watched BP, a group of fans congregated at the fence rail near the gate leading out. At one point, I saw JJ talking to
Witt, Jr. After Bobby’s group finished, they proceeded along the fence line. The fans only wanted autographs and pictures of one player – Bobby Witt, Jr.! We patiently waited while he progressed towards the gate out where we were. Finally, he got to us and I quickly explained my connection to his dad. “No, my dad won’t be here until next month.” He kind of chuckled because I guess this was new for him having somebody not want his autograph or picture! “Oh well …” I responded with disappointment in my voice. “Could I please get a picture with you anyway?” so then he really laughed.
By now it was almost game time so we headed over to the ballpark. The starters for both teams were to play almost half the game and then be replaced by minor leaguers. We saw some of our former Mudcats in the Brewers dugout. A young lady in sunglasses sat down next to us. I looked over at the very attractive gal. She smiled and said, “Do you remember me?” I laughed and said, “I know you… don’t I?” She laughed and removed the shades. It was Hedbert Perez’s girlfriend who had attended many Mudcats games both home and away. Hedbert batted in the fifth inning. “BAM!!” as the bat connected with the ball. The rocket was launched!!! Homerun!!! As we were standing up cheering and yelling, I turned around to congratulate her and she wasn’t there!! Hedbert crossed the plate all smiles. The Brewers won big over Kansas City 10 to 4!
The Team Italy special fundraiser dinner was at Tomaso’s restaurant in Scottsdale. We had looked into supporting the fundraiser and were going to surprise Michele. Well, the surprise was on us with the price tag to attend – five hundred dollars a plate!! Instead, I reserved a table in the main dining room. We got all dressed up in our nice clothes. It was a beautiful small restaurant and it had been years since I saw tablecloths and linen napkins at an eating establishment! We were sitting there looking over the menu and all of the sudden the whole team Italy started streaming through the main restaurant in a line of blue suits all going to the private dining room. Every once in a while, a person that was eating in the main dining room would get up and take pictures. I had my camera ready and knew the minute Michele came in because he was so tall he towered over most of the team. I slowly positioned to get a picture and he stopped!! “Don’t stop! I don’t want to get you in trouble!” He laughed and proceeded to the back. It was one of the best, if not the best, meals I’ve ever had! I had the five-layer lasagna and a very good salad. For dessert I could not turn down the temptation of the caramel cheesecake. It was amazing! Meanwhile Team Italy players had started to trickle out with some coming out for a breather or to use the restroom. When Michele came out, we were already finished with dessert and they still hadn’t gotten to their main course!! Their dinner was being done by numerous courses and I was thankful I wouldn’t be digesting dinner at 11PM which was 2AM my time!!