Being on the field with Jeremy Affeldt at AT&T Park for his retirement ceremony two weeks ago was a dream. Well the dream continues...
Yesterday, I got word from the Kansas City Royals that they are honoring me at tonight's Game 5 ALDS against the Houston Astros. They are providing tickets for my immediate family and I will be sitting in the Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat.
The Buck O'Neil Legacy seat is behind home plate, just down from where I sat with my father for the last time at a Royals game a few days before he died. I know my father would be really proud of what's happening.
A little over a decade ago, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel to a group of youth workers. My fellow panelists that day were Royals great Mike Sweeney, youth worker Dana Nearmyer and Royals' pitcher Jeremy Affeldt. From that moment on, Jeremy invited me into his life as a pastor, theological conversation partner, spiritual guide and most of all, friend. We have been through a lot together with lots of valleys and mountain top experiences. I helped Jeremy with his first book, To Stir a Movement and welaunched an initiative called Something to Eat, which has provided nearly 4million meals to those struggling with hunger.
A year and a half ago, Jeremy started talking a lot about retiring. It wasn't because he was struggling with his performance. (I should have pressured him to retire at All Star break last year and then he wouldn't have pitched against my beloved Royals and getting the win as a pitcher in game seven.) He talked of retirement because he loves his family and grew increasingly sad about missing time with them. His three boys are growing up quick and he hates not being with them more. There were a couple of times earlier in the season that he thought about quitting abruptly.
A couple of weeks ago the Giants front office called and asked if Vicki and I would come to be a part of a special ceremony honoring Jeremy at today’s Giants’ game. I am honored to be here and grateful to the Giants for spending the money to bring family and some friends to San Francisco to pay tribute to Jeremy who helped them win three World Series Championships since 2010.
I look forward to what God has in store for Jeremy and Larisa in the years ahead. It has been a highlight of my life to watch Jeremy develop as a player (just look at his postseason stats, putting him in the company of legends like Mariano Rivera and Babe Ruth), even more, to see him grow as a follower of God in the way of Jesus. He is committed to come along the “least of these” (Matthew 25) and to stand up as a leader to call a thing what it is. Perhaps most of all, Jeremy has become more than a friend. The Celts had a phrase to describe what I’m talking about. Anam Cara, is Gaelic for “soul friend” and that’s what Jeremy is for me.
Wait, for now. Distrust everything, if you have to. But trust the hours. Haven't they carried you everywhere, up to now? Personal events will become interesting again. Hair will become interesting. Pain will become interesting. Buds that open out of season will become lovely again. Second-hand gloves will become lovely again, their memories are what give them the need for other hands. And the desolation of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness carved out of such tiny beings as we are asks to be filled; the need for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Wait. Don't go too early. You're tired. But everyone's tired. But no one is tired enough. Only wait a while and listen. Music of hair, Music of pain, music of looms weaving all our loves again. Be there to hear it, it will be the only time, most of all to hear, the flute of your whole existence, rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
A very surreal week started with a wonderful tailgate meal with Vicki while anticipation mounted for the Chiefs playing New England on Monday Night Football on a perfect fall evening in Kansas City. Even though we love our Chiefs, the city is in frenzy over the KC Royals. While waiting for the kickoff the atmosphere was enhanced by a dozen or so Royals players who made a surprise appearance on the field at Arrowhead. The crowd roared as they walked around the perimeter of the field, giving high fives and chatting with fans. The Chiefs made a classy decision to feature a Royals congratulation video on the jumbotron. Arrowhead was charged up. I felt like the Chiefs had a good chance to win but no one expected a 41 to 14 spanking of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This was SO FUN. We also broke the Guinness Book of World Records by becoming the loudest open-air stadium in the world reaching 142.2 decibels.
This event was opening act for the headliner happening on Tuesday, when the KC Royals would return to post-season play for the first time in 29 years. If the opening act featuring the Chiefs was so good, then certainly the headliner playing the next night would surely be stunning.
Tuesday morning started out charmed when I pulled up to one of my regular coffee stops to find George Brett holding court with some buddies, talking baseball and telling stories. George saw the Brett Jersey I had bought my father several years ago hanging in my back window. That brought a big smile and thumbs up from the Hall of Famer.
I headed to Kauffman Stadium early to take in all the festivities. I particularly went to sit in the same seat I sat in next to my father on his last outing before dying a little over a year ago. My dad taught me how to love baseball so deeply. When it became clear that we would be playing the Oakland A’s in the Wild Card game, I knew I had to be there. The A’s came to KC from Philadelphia. They never had a winning record in KC but I loved them. In fact, my parents had to get special permission at my grade school to let me where my Kelly Green and Gold A’s hat. I even had my school picture taken with my hat on. When my father told me that Charlie Finley was taking the A’s to Oakland, I cried for days. It wasn’t long before KC was granted an expansion team that we wouldcall the Royals. Some of my earliest memories are of my father taking me to old Municipal Stadium to see the A’s and then the Royals play. Ewing Kauffman, the owner of the Royals, worked to get us a new stadium, along with Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt. Several times a month my dad would take to the overview hill to watch the progress being made on the new stadiums. So it was special, painful and joyful all at the same time to sit in this chair and remember.
The pre-game festivities set the stage for an amazing, one of a kind night. I chatted with Jamie Roach, my brother-in-law; Eddie Garlich, a Youthfront kid now grown up; friends Gary and Vickie Pener; I saw friend and Royals legend Mike Sweeney and exchanged texts; and for a special treat I discovered in row two behind the Royals dugout and right in front of me, Julia Burbridge, a Youthfront supporter and friend, with her two daughters, Lisa and Anna. I was missing Steve, Julia’s husband, who was in Palm Springs on business. I eventually moved down a row to sit with them. I got non-stop messages and texts from friends, during the drama of the game, friends who saw me on TV. I’ve learned that sitting near the dugout gets you TV and JumboTron time.
When we went down two runs in the first inning my heart sank but soon soared as we regained the lead. I’m not going to lie – I was depressed and resigned to lose when we entered the bottom of the 8th behind by a score of 7-3. But then magic happened and continued to happen. When Peres hit the walk off single, in what had become the first winner-take-all game to go at least 12 innings since Game 7 of the 1924 World Series, I cried, the kind where tears roll down the cheeks. Even though the clock was striking midnight and I had a 5:00am flight to Sacramento, California for the National Youth Workers Convention, I couldn’t leave. The fans couldn’t leave. The players couldn’t leave until we properly celebrated in astonishment what had just happened. My phone was lit up with texts, v-mails, calls, tweets, Facebook mentions, etc. from friends from all over the world. I so wish my dad could have been at this game. One of those voicemails was from my mother. I called her back on the way home and we celebrated, talked about dad and reminisced.
As I finally pulled myself away from the field, I did, what my dad would have wanted me to do. I stopped at least two dozen 8 – 10 year olds who were walking to the cars with their fathers and mothers. With what voice I had left I enthusiastically told them, “You are so lucky to be here. What happened tonight you will remember the rest of your life. You will some day tell your children about it. You were here. You saw this and you will never forget it.” Once the parents realized I wasn’t intoxicated, they affirmed what I was saying and jumped on the moment to drive home the moment to their children. I think my father would be very proud of me for doing that.
Yesterday our family gathered on the one year anniversary of my father's death for the interment of his remains. It was a time of remembering, story-telling, crying, laughing, praying and celebrating. We wore Royal blue because we knew that would make him very happy. Below the picture is a video from his memorial service a year ago this weekend.
One year ago tonight my father, Dave King, and I, along with my brother-in-law, Jamie Roach and family friend Topher Philgreen, attended a special KC Royals baseball game. It wasn't special because the Royals won, they didn't. It wasn't special because they were still in a pennant race, they really weren't. It was special because it was the last public outing of my father just nine days before he died.
It was special because my father and I really had a thing for baseball. We loved the game and we loved the Royals. During my father's battle for his life last summer we had moments of high hopes for the Royals, but alas... like the last, nearly three decades of Royals' baseball, it, once again, was not meant to be. It was special because we got to go into the Royals' broadcast booth before the game to hangout with broadcasters Ryan Lefebvre, Rex Hudler and Denny Matthews. I wrote about it here.
Today, I thought a lot about my father. It's hard to believe a year has passed by so quickly. I wish he could have experienced what the Royals are doing right now. My father and I used to go to Municipal Stadium to watch the KC Athletics play. He consoled me when Charlie Finley decided to move the team to Oakland, I cried. He took me to watch our new team, the Royals, play at Municipal. He took me several times a month to monitor the progress of the new stadium which would become Kauffman Stadium. We had all those great years of rooting for our team in the golden '80's. I celebrated with him when we won the World Series. I wish he could have experienced this season. I hope my kids get the joy of experiencing a World Series (and a Super Bowl, come on Chiefs).
My father and I had a deeper connection than just baseball. He loved Jesus and served God faithfully and he loved to pray. I've thought about him during this pilgrimage I'm currently on. I've though about him during the offices of prayer we've attended in the Cathedral in Chester, at St. George's Chapel at Windsor Palace and today in Canterbury Cathedral. Yes, we connected on the deep level of our Christian faith, but that doesn't diminish the sweet and passionate connection we had over baseball.
He was a coach to me in life and he was my baseball coach for nearly a decade as a child and teenager. I miss you coach.
My friend Jeremy Affeldt, a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, just celebrated his 35th birthday, which coincided with back to back wins on consecutive days. Jeremy has won two World Series Championships with the Giants and factored significantly in the titles. He was his team's 2011 nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award and was voted MLB Setup Man of the Year in 2009. Affeldt was also recognized for his anti-slavery efforts with a nomination for the Jefferson Award for Public Service. So far this year Jeremy is once again showing that he is one of the premiere relievers in the major leagues, pitching in 24 games with 19 strikeouts, 9 holds and a 1.71 ERA. And, I might add, the Giants are the hottest team in baseball with a 41-21 record.
All that to say, Jeremy is a better human being than he is a baseball player. Baseball player doesn't define Jeremy, his faith in Jesus Christ does.
That is the introduction to say, if your father hasn't read Jeremy's book To Stir aMovement,do something special for your father on Father's Day and give him this book. Then you can read it after he is done. It is interesting, inspiring and informative. Act now, and you will have it in time.
One year ago today, my parents joined our family for a vacation in Hawaii. My parents had never been to Hawaii and Vicki and I make an annual vacation here so we really wanted them to have the experience.
About a year and a half ago, I had an intuitive impression that now was the time for Vicki and me to get our kids, granddaughters and parents all to Hawaii for a vacation together. I wanted us all to have that experience together and wondered if it would be our last chance to pull that off with everyone. So we cashed in a lot of frequent flyer miles and went for it. At first my father thought it might be better for them to wait until a later time but my mother worked him over and he quickly relented.
Vicki and I got here on Wednesday of Super Bowl week last year and both sets of our parents arrived, one year ago today on Super Bowl Friday. The Monday after the Super Bowl all of our kids and granddaughters arrived. We had an amazing time hanging out at the beach, eating fresh caught fish, driving to the North Shore and around the island, but most of all, just being together in this tropical paradise.
Unfortunately, my intuitive hunch proved to be too true when my father unexpectantly passed away in August. The last couple days here in Hawaii have been bittersweet thinking about last year. I remember them arriving at the hotel one year ago tonight excited about being here. I remember the funny things that happened. I remember how somber my father was while visiting Pearl Harbor.
Being here reminds me of how hard it is to come to grips with the reality that my dear father is dead and no longer around.
Below is my favorite pictures from last year. I especially like this because I took it after we had made an all day trip around the island and just barely made it to a wonderful point on the island for a spectacular sunset. This picture is such a great symbo of my father’s life. We miss him and long for the day when resurrection puts the final explanation point on the promise given to us by Jesus Christ through his resurrection.