I joined on with Barry and Matt back in March of 2017, when Outta The Park hadn’t even started yet.
In fact, that wasn’t even the original name! During the evolution of the show a community was formed. Through this community I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people and have formed lasting friendships. It’s incredible to think that a podcast about baseball has morphed into a show that prides itself on showcasing the human side of sports and has brought several people together in the process.
It was through this “human side of sports” that my daughter Daphne and I were able to experience something truly incredible. Being that my daughter’s favourite player of all time is J.A. Happ, I was looking tirelessly for a Happ shirsey in her size, to no avail. A member of the OTP family (and I do mean family) was able to find one and without hesitation purchased it and mailed it to me! I was blown away at the thought and generosity behind this gesture.
Fast forward a few weeks later, I was going through some rough times. Again, this wonderful OTP family pooled some money together to purchase another Happ shirt… but this time it was for me. They did this so my daughter and I could match and continue to bond over baseball. The thoughtfulness and compassion displayed towards me was truly unexpected and overwhelming.
A month or so later a bunch of the OTP family and I took in a Jays game together. Happ was scheduled to pitch and we had tickets behind the bullpen. As I was taking video of Happ warming up to show Daphne later, he tossed his warmup ball into the crowd. Unfortunately, I was on the catcher’s side of the bullpen and the ball was tossed up a couple of sections over. I didn’t think anything of it and went back to visiting with my group. Unbeknownst to me, OTP correspondent and world’s biggest Jays fan, Lil Dan caught that ball. A few minutes later I got a Twitter notification from Dan telling me that he caught Happ’s ball and he would be walking it over to me so I could give it to Daphne. When I read that I got instant goosebumps. This is something I never would’ve expected and it emphasised the type of people this podcast has brought together.
When I got home I was so excited to show Daphne the ball. I knew I had to videotape her reaction to show Dan how much it meant to her. Little did I know that her reaction video would be a huge hit online. A couple of days later, Barry texted me asking if he could send the video to Happ. Of course I said “yes”.
The next episode of OTP featured J.A. Happ. During the interview Barry asked him about the video and told him the story behind it. Happ was genuinely taken with the video and didn’t hesitate when Barry asked if he’d be willing to sign the ball sometime.
A week or two later, Barry once again texts me and tells me that whenever Daphne and I come up for a game to let him know because he will ensure we not only get the ball signed, but he will contact Happ and get us on field passes so we can also meet him! This was completely overwhelming to me. When I told Daphne, she was speechless… she couldn’t believe it.
The following week Daphne and I drove up to Toronto and met up with Barry. We all went onto the field to watch the Jays take batting practice. We could see Happ shagging fly balls in deep centre field. Once BP ended, Happ didn’t hesitate and started walking directly towards us from all the way in the outfield. At this point Daphne was a mess of nerves and excitement. Happ came right over and immediately introduced himself to Daphne. She was too excited to speak so Barry helped break the ice. Daphne handed him the ball and he autographed it. Afterwards he stuck around to take a picture with us and then went on to sign a few more autographs. When he was done he made sure to come back over and talk with us a little bit more before heading back to the clubhouse. I was completely taken with how genuine J.A. was in taking the time to not only sign Daphne’s ball but to stay and chat a bit. The fact he took the time to do this for my daughter is so heartwarming and I will never forget his act of generosity. He is a true role model. I will also be forever grateful to Barry for going above and beyond to make this opportunity happen. He is the embodiment of what OTP represents. The entire experience was incredible and will be something that neither Daphne nor I will ever forget!
All of this would not have been possible without OTP. From the friends that I’ve made to the overwhelming generosity and love that has been generated in its wake, it’s a truly amazing thing. I will forever be thankful that I joined up with Barry and Matt in the spring of 2017 to help create and be a part of this wonderful show. OTP isn’t just a podcast, it’s a community, and I hope we continue to add more wonderful people as we continue along our journey.