For a brief period in time, the friendly rivalry between the York Revolution and Lancaster Barnstormers was put aside.
Even if it was for just 15 minutes during a game at Sovereign Bank Stadium back in May, a Barnstormers' relief pitcher and a young Revs' fan were brought together. And it meant the world to the special fan and his mother and father.
It happened when Lancaster reliever Jason Urquidez, sitting on the benches down the left-field line, scooped up a foul ball and turned around to the stands, where he noticed a small boy sitting on the lap of his mom.
"When I gave him (the boy) the ball he just had this big smile on his face and I could tell that gave him so much joy," Urquidez said Sunday before the series finale between York and Lancaster. "I gave him the ball and could I could tell, I was like 'He's gonna throw this thing,'" Urquidez said. "And he threw it right back onto the field and I said 'I knew that was coming.' And I gave it (the ball) back to him and I went to walk away and then it went through again and I said 'All right, well it looks like I'm playing a game of catch.'"
The boy and Urquidez spent the next 15 minutes playing catch.
"I've been around people going through tough times and just to see the spirit that they have ... as soon as I saw that kid I knew he had gone through some stuff," Urquidez said.
The boy's name is Greyson Walker, and he will have quite a story to tell one day on the number of obstacles he overcame just in the first two years of his young life.
Greyson was brought into this world about two months premature, born septic and with pneumonia -- information his mother, Lindsay, shared with The York Dispatch in a story in June 2012. Greyson would spend the first seven months of his life living in hospitals. Now 2 years and 3 months old, Greyson has battled bronchopulmonary dysplasia, a lung condition, and tracheomalacia, which affects the windpipe. He's fed through a feeding tube and still has oxygen connected to him 24 hours a day, two things he'll hopefully overcome as he grows older.
He's also one of the happiest boys I've ever been around. Greyson, you see, is the son to Hallam residents Lindsay and Shane Walker, who are family friends of mine. And they still talk about the smile Urquidez brought to Greyson's face that day back in May.
So why did Urquidez, a former Diamondbacks' and Red Sox prospect, play catch with Greyson?
"Just through the years I've had people write emails to teams and what not saying 'This guy is really nice,'" he said. "But that's just how I live life."
Plus, Urquidez's own obstacles help him connect to people who have been through tough times. The youngest of five boys and three girls growing up in California, Urquidez had two brothers die in a one-week span when he was 11-years-old -- one to lymphona and another to a car accident. One of his sisters came down with scleroderma, a skin condition, from complications of giving birth to an autistic son 15 years ago.
The 6-foot, 2-inch tall right-hander openly talked about missing the second half of the baseball season in his senior year at Royal High School because he was academically ineligible -- an issue he corrected before later playing at NCAA Division I Arizona State University. It also took him two years to regain his velocity on the mound after missing the 2006 season -- his second as a pro -- because of shoulder surgery.
Now in his second season with the Barnstormers, Urquidez is arguably the best reliever in the Atlantic League right now. Sure, he gave up two hits in the bottom of the ninth to York on Sunday night, which tied the game on an unearned run, but it's just the second time in 28 games this season where he's given up a run - both unearned. With those numbers, he shouldn't be in the Atlantic League. No matter where he's at, though, he'll continue to give back to the fans.
"I don't do it for the attention," Urquidez said. "I could tell there's something going on with him (Greyson). The look on his face was priceless."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.