A Feel Good Story: It’s not about me anymore

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The grateful nine year-old

Devin Smeltzer had never expected to pitch in the Major Leagues. He was diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine. A softball-sized tumor required surgery, chemotherapy, and a feeding tube. Since leaving Philadelphia’s St. Christopher Hospital for Children, wrote Ben Rohrbach after Devin started pitching in the minor leagues two years ago,

he’s scrawled the names of those who have inspired him on his cap — friends and family members diagnosed with cancer and the many children he’s seen pass through the doors at St. Christopher’s upon volunteering each month.

Ben Rohrbach

Then it happened. The Twins called him up from the Pensacola Wahoos, the Twins’ Double-A affiliate in Florida, to stand in for the fifth member of their pitching rotation who’d been placed on the Disabled List for a short while.

Twenty-three year-old lefty Devin Smeltzer, the cancer patient in remission, blew through six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, one of the toughest lineups in the League. He performed like an Ace — think Sandy Koufax, Ryan Nolan, Steve Carleton — allowing no runs, just three hits, and seven strikeouts in six full innings.

A second start

Tonight in Cleveland, Devin Smeltzer will take the mound for a second start in a Minnesota Twins uniform. As he has done since rejoining his Little League team following his release from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Devin will not take the mound alone. The cancer patients, his family, and medical staff will go with him under the bill of his cap.

Devin Smeltzer is a singularly remarkable life story. Equally remarkable, no matter how he pitches tonight or whether he makes it as a major league pitcher, is his humility and gratitude.

“My story’s not about me anymore.”

“My story isn’t about me anymore,” he told CBS Philadelphia this past spring. “My story is about giving hope to other people. There was a kid almost the same age as me. He didn’t make it. The hardest thing about going through cancer is meeting all these amazing people, and those people passing away and you moving on. I remember Frankie. There was Baby Lea, and it was hard to hear when she passed away. She was under 2. That’s the hard part. I beat cancer, but the battle is still there. I’ll always have it. You have to help the people that have helped you — and there are a lot of people that have been there for me.”

Ben Rohrbach, Yahoo Sports

Not many of us write the names of others under the bills of our caps or make it to the Big Leagues. But there are more like him. Mostly unseen. Behind the scenes showing the same gratitude, humility, courage, and compassion that quietly bless others every day without the cheering of the crowd.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 2, 2019

Full Moon by the Wetland

FlomaxFew of my closest male friends still get up in the middle of the night. Most have had surgery or are on Flomax. They sleep through the night. While they’re sleeping, I’m getting up three of four times, on a good night. Last night it was five!

You might think they’re luckier than I am. But sometimes, like last night when I got up five times, there’s a blessing to it. There are windows on three sides of the loft. On a clear night, I look out and up at Orion’s belt — it’s always there — and feel all’s right with the world. I saw Orion belt again last night, but there was a brighter blessing – a full moon throwing a wide swath of moonlight across the wetland onto the yard and through the cabin’s windows.

SupermoonThe swath of light shifted with each trip down the handcrafted maple staircase the A-frame’s builder — a Saint Paul fireman — had rescued before the old firehouse was torn down. It’s a beautiful work of art, and, when the evening sun or a full moon shines its light on the maple, those who see it can’t help but be thankful the old fireman rescued it from its fateful trip to the landfill. The angle of the light moves with the moon to create changing patterns formed by the light from above and the different shaped shadows cast by the thin, leaf bare birches and aspens, and by the bigger oaks and maples whose leaves have not yet fallen — each of the five trips up and down the staircase unlike the one before. I thought of all my friends who no longer need to make trips in the night because of surgery or Flomax, or the end of their time under the full moon among the trees and wetlands. 

Someday I’ll make my last trip down that stairwell, but the blessing of the full moon in late October 2018 will stay as long as my memory holds out — an heavenly taste of earth, an experience of the Ineffable, a non-Flomax night of bliss!

After brewing a pot of coffee this morning, I turn my attention back to the book I’d been reading before bed, Marilynne Robinson’s Gideon, the story of a dying old preacher writing a memoir for his young son. I come to a page that speaks of what I felt seeing the full moon. “I am trying to decide,” says the Reverend John Ames, “what I have never before put into words. … It was one day while listening to baseball that it occurred to me how the moon actually moves, in a spiral, because while it orbits the earth, it also follows the orbit of the earth around the sun. This is obvious, but the realization pleased me. There was a full moon outside my window, icy white in a blue sky, and the Cubs were playing Cincinnati.”

Crosley Field

Crosley Field, 1969, home of the Cincinnati Reds

Funny thing about that. Years ago, as a youth, I, like Reverend John Ames — and maybe John’s creator, Marilynne Robinson, listened to Cincinnati Reds radio broadcasts before drifting off to sleep hundred miles away.  The broadcasts came through clear as a bell in Broomall, Pennsylania. There were nights when the Cubs — or my Phillies — were playing Cincinnati.

  • Gordon C. Stewart by the wetland after a full moon, October 23, 2018.

Winners and Losers

Minnesotans were big losers last night. The Vikings lost 38-7 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

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Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau, “Grumpy Old Men”

Floridians were also losers. The Jacksonville Jaguars lost 24-20 to the New England Patriots.

Minnesotans and the North Floridians are both grumpy today. But there’s on big difference between the grumpy old men facing a depressing winter on the Florida coast and the Minnesotans up north in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

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Minnesota ice fishing houses

We get to go ice fishing!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018

 

Philadelphia Mean and Minnesota Nice

Being candid is not always wise. But, some days, like today, it feels like a requirement.

Yesterday my adopted team, the Minnesota Vikings, brought “Minnesota Nice” — everyone’s supposed to be “nice” in Minnesota — into the stadium of Philadelphia Mean. Philadelphia fans are as known for their meanness as Minnesotans are for Minnesota Nice.

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Philadelphia Eagles fan throwing beer bottle

Philadelphia fans weren’t nice! They threw beer bottles at Vikings fans. They ridiculed their Minnesota guests by chanting “Skol!” when the Vikings did belly-flops. And that was just up in the stands! Down on the field, it was worse. The Eagles were mean. The Vikings didn’t play football. They played nice, and they got whooped!

In case you’re wondering why Views from the Edge is spending time on a football game, let me explain.

I’m a relative newcomer to Minnesota Nice, a 1994 transplant from Philadelphia Mean. But I was never an Eagles fan. Phillies? Yes. Eagles? No. But my brothers and high school friends are. They love the Eagles. So a part of me is happy for my brothers Bob and Don and my old Philadelphia classmates. I’m trying to be nice, but it doesn’t come naturally.

It gets more complicated. The New England Patriots will bring New England Haughty to U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis for the Super Bowl that was supposed to include the Minnesota Vikings. My family roots are in Boston (my father) and Maine (my mother). All my relatives — ALL of them — except for brothers Bob and Don, will be cheering for the New England Haughties on Feb. 4.

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U.S. Bank Stadium, host of the 2018 Super Bowl

When the Eagles take the field against the Patriots in the Vikings’ home stadium, I’ll be a bit conflicted. But, here’s the thing, to be quite candid. I’ll be in Florida with my less conflicted brothers Bob and Don. I’ll shout “Skol!” for the Eagles and privately give thanks that being patriotic isn’t Patriot-ic, and that life is not a football game.

– Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, January 22, 2018.

The Light Show

The moonless night beyond the picture window contrasts with the candles that wash a warm glow on the orange rough-cut pine walls inside the A-frame cabin in a place without a name.

flightA flock of Canadian geese flews over the wetland before dusk, honking their way south before winter comes to the Upper Midwest, while inside the cabin walls the Toronto Blue Jays had flown south to Minneapolis over the radio to play a ballgame with the Twins. Unlike the Canadian geese, the Blue Jays are going nowhere; the Minnesota Twins are preparing for a long flight to the World Series.

votive-candlesThere is something strange about being alone in a remote wilderness cabin without a remote or internet, but some things stay close. Like the radio I bring to listen to the Twins games, and my canine companion Barclay who doesn’t care about the Twins or the radio but does care about candlelight. Barclay had headed for his kennel for the night an hour after the Twins had broken the sacred silence—until the sound of a match drew him back to the sofa to watch the candlelight flicker against the walls.

Sometimes I wish I were a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel instead of a lone silly goose who needs a radio to stay sane in an otherwise silent night in a warm-lit cabin in a place without a name.

d6dbdcca-1865-4dbf-b1dc-9cfda368e47d.1By the seventh inning stretch, I’m tired of the Twins game, blow out all the candles, see Barclay to his kennel, and head up the ladder to the loft in the darkness. Only then do I notice the light show beyond the cabin walls: the Northern Lights dancing across the sky, a natural light show no World Series can match. Through the loft window I watch the light that knows nothing of matches, candles, or our whereabouts off the human map.

Sometimes, when awe reduces me to lightening bug, it feels good to be human.

 

The Gophers and the Groper

Until University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler shared with the university football players (“the Gophers”) the investigation report of alleged sexual assault that led to the suspension of 10 of their teammates, the team was ready to boycott the Holiday Bowl. The grizzly details — and lots of parent tweets urging them to protect their own futures — put the young Gophers between a rock and a hard place: stand with your 10 teammates and be tagged forever as condoning sexual assault, or reverse the decision to stand together — all for one and one for all — and admit that some things go far beyond “boys will be boys”.

Early yesterday morning, team spokesman Adam Wolitarsky announced the team’s decision to play in the Holiday Bowl.

Rumor has it that the Gophers immediately received a tweet from someone in New York:

“Win one for the Groper!”

 

 

All Saints Day

This  All Saints Day —the first without Steve Shoemaker, a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan whose life ambition was to see the Cubs win the World Series –I took the liberty of re-writing a stanza of the signature hymn sung on All Saints Day, Sine Nomine, “For All the Saints Who from their Labors Rest”. Tonight the Cubs try to even the World Series at 3-3 in Cleveland, OH.

Oh, may Thy Cub-bies, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

With apologies. Go Cubs! Do it for Steve on All Saints Day.

Gordon C. Stewart, Nov. 1, 2016

Limerick on Chicago Cubs

Steve pic

Steve with Chicago Cubs mascot.

For the Cubs 1-0-7 long years
Crying No-Series-Winner sad tears.
Yes, I live far away,
But soon on that great day
Baby Bruins will sure hear my cheers!
Steve Shoemaker (1943-2016).

Views from the Edge published Steve Shoemaker‘s Limerick on Chicago Cubs one year before his untimely death October 11, 2016. He wrote it in honor of Harry Lee Strong, another long-suffering Cubs fan.

Tonight the Cubs meet Cleveland for the 2016 World Series.

We republish it in hopes of World Series victory shouts!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 12, 2016. Updated October 24, 2016.

Limerick on Chicago Cubs

For the Cubs 1-0-7 long years
Crying No-Series-Winner sad tears.
Yes, I live far away,
But soon on that great day
Baby Bruins will sure hear my cheers!

– Steve Shoemaker (1943-2016).

Views from the Edge published Steve Shoemaker’s Limerick on Chicago Cubs one year before his untimely death October 11, 2016. He wrote it in honor of Harry Lee Strong, another long-suffering Cubs fan.

Tonight the Cubs meet Cleveland for the 2016 World Series. We republish it in hopes of World Series victory shouts!

Steve with Chicago Cubs mascot.

Steve with Chicago Cubs mascot, during trip to Wrigley Field with seminary friends Harry Lee Strong, Don Dempsey, Bob Young, Wayne Boulton, and Steve’s blogging buddy.

Last night the “Baby Bruins” had an improbable (dare we say ‘miraculous’?) come-from-behind ninth-inning victory over the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco. Now they’re one step away from the World Series.

The day after Steve’s death, I think I heard the beginning of a full-throated bass cheer from Urbana, as well as from Harry’s home in Prescott, Arizona. Two cheers for the Cubs; three cheers for Harry Lee, and four cheers for Steve!

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 12, 2016. Updated October 24, 2016.

The Baseball Cap on Memorial Day

I’m a baseball fan. I love baseball. I  turn on the TV.

It’s Memorial Day. My team, the Minnesota Twins, is wearing visitor’s gray. The Oakland As are wearing white. That’s tradition.

But today something’s different. Both teams are wearing the same baseball cap: military camouflage.

Why?

Memorial Day is not a salute to the military. It’s a day to remember the dead who have fallen in the service to their country. The Twins and the As are not soldiers, sailors, Marines, or special forces. They’re baseball players in different uniforms and different caps with different logos. They throw. They catch. They swing. They hit. They walk. They strike out. Nobody kills. Nobody dies. But Major League Baseball is big business that knows how to strike up the band and confuse civilian and military life. Not good. But it’s become the new normal.

A moment of silence followed by Taps would better fit the occasion – and the removal of all caps.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, May 30, 2016.