As we waited for our table at Jalapeno’s Mexican Restaurant in Kansas City yesterday, none of us suspected that dinner would create an indelible memory in our hearts and touch our souls.
“Mike Sweeney is with his family at the table behind you,” Michele, my daughter-in-law, said.
Sweeney’s name has been imbedded in our family history since he first visited our grandson, Ben, following a brain trauma injury from a car accident eight years ago. Most people know Mike as a major league baseball player with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies, and following his retirement last year, is a studio analyst for the MLB Network.
Our family also knows him as the man who befriended an injured four-year-old, prayed for him and sent him KC Royals memorabilia to speed his recovery.
Ben kept sneaking glances at Mike until Michele told him he could go over and introduce himself. Ben, who had just played at Royals Stadium in the All-Star Challenger and Champions game for special needs children, proudly walked over to Mike.
“Hi. I’m Ben Avery.” Hesitancy and pride blended his tone. We parents, brothers and grandparents looked on with our own hesitation at disturbing Mike’s family meal.
“Ben. Ben Avery. Oh my gosh, I prayed for you a long time ago,” Mike said as he jumped up from the table and enfolded Ben in a bear hug. “Look at how you’ve grown. You’re a miracle.”
Mike hugged him again as Ben told him, “I hit a grand-slam home run at Royals Stadium today.”
Properly impressed, Mike wanted to hear all about the game.
After a round of hugs with Ben’s parents, Mike greeted Ben’s brothers, George, John, Andrew (John’s friend), Everett (Grandpa) and me.
Continuing to tell us he prayed for Ben, Mike said, “He’s our miracle. After we visited him in the hospital, we continued to pray for him.”
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” George repeated several times as we watched Ben blossom under Mike’s attention and love.
“There are no accidents. God meant for all of us to choose dinner here at Jalapeno’s today.” We all agreed as we took photos and visited some more. When Ben sat back down at our table, his face beamed and his thousand-watt smile melted our hearts.
“I told him about my grand-slam home run.”
“Awesome,” George told him. John’s and Andrew’s smiles matched Ben’s as he told us that Mike was his friend.
A few minutes later, Mike came back to our table, for one last hug, handed Ben his card and told him, “Ben, call me anytime you want to talk about baseball - or anything else.”
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” George’s sentiment was echoed in our hearts and smiles as we all digested the miracle of a moment that will live with us forever.