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Stories from the journey of fatherhood & brotherhood

Healing At Detroit Tigers Games

baseball brotherhood healing Apr 17, 2021

The Detroit Tigers bring me back to my first story, the one that God authored for me.

When I was around 8 years old, my mom entered me in a raffle.  They used to have these in grocery stores in Michigan, just past the cashier.  Some were for experiences, some were for products.  This one was for an honorary bat boy or bat girl at a home game for the Detroit Tigers back in old Tiger Stadium.  

My mom and dad called me into the living room to tell me that I won the raffle.

My mom, dad, and two older brothers came to the game to watch my bat boy debut.  We even had an extra ticket for my “cool cousin” Butch.  We sat in the expensive seats behind home plate.  I got an oversized Tigers t-shirt and hat, sponsored by Milk Duds.  Me and the honorary bat girl were introduced to the photographer/chaperone and he brought us onto the field during batting practice.  

For Tigers fans, these were the days of Cecil Fielder hitting towering home runs into, or even over the upper deck.  With the flash of a homerun and his hulking frame, he was everyone’s favorite player.  My favorite player, though, was Alan Trammell.  He was an all-around baseball player and my oldest brother, Sean, made sure I knew the value of defense, being a hitter that could drive the ball to different parts of the field, and being a player who loved the game.  

Sean was the baseball player in the family, and he helped orchestrate some of my best memories with my brothers.  Armed with tennis balls, one of us would impersonate their favorite pitcher, another their favorite batter, and the other “playing in the field.” The fielder was always convinced they had thrown out the hitter at whatever base the hit seemed to warrant.  

The aluminum siding on the back of our house bore the dents of brotherhood, belonging, and play.  

On the field of Tiger Stadium, 8-year-old Kevin was asked, “Who’s your favorite player?” The bat girl said Cecil Fielder.  I said Alan Trammell.  The photographer/chaperone approached both players.  Cecil was too busy to come over, but Alan came.  I remember the ball, huge in my hands, fitting just right in his. I stood there with a grin on my face, drinking in the experience of standing in the presence of a hero signing my baseball.  

That little boy already began to experience evil writing a story over top of God’s first story. This second  story said brotherhood was dangerous, that belonging would become abandonment, and that play should be held with contempt.  Tigers games, though, have been one of God’s windows back into God’s first story for me. 

One of my first dates with my now wife, Meghan, was at a Tigers game.  When we moved to Detroit in 2013 to plant a church, we moved to a house that was 10 minutes from the new home of the Tigers, Comerica Park.  My kids have each caught a love for sights, sounds, and especially the snacks, that come with a Tigers game.

It’s also been at these games that I’ve experienced the power of the kindness of God.  It was a year after I graduated from college, in 2004, that my wife at the time, Andrea, divorced me so that she could be in a relationship with another man.  Two of my friends from high school decided to take me to a Tigers game to get my mind off of it.  That began an annual tradition.  

At these games we would tell one another about engagements and marriages, about losses, about babies on the way, and about problems with drugs and alcohol.  In 2018, one of these two friends, Chris, overdosed on drugs.  That summer the Tigers game was a time to celebrate and grieve his life as we invited his family to join us.  The great loss of my divorce began one of the greatest gifts in my life, a gift that encountered immense grief, and continues in an annual tradition of brotherhood.  Tigers games show me the power of God’s kindness in the midst of a world of great evil.  

Our family is moving from Detroit to Fort Collins this summer. As we prepare to leave, we decided to begin what we’re calling our “Goodbye Tour,” saying goodbye as a family to places that have meant a lot to us, with a family trip to a Tigers game last week.  It began with a rain delay and ended with a 15-6 Tigers loss. But, in the middle, we sat together as a family with the sun cutting through the clouds warming our skin and meeting our smiling mouths munching on soft pretzels.  Disappointment and play, loss and celebration go hand-in-hand, and it’s all part of the adventure that I craved as a boy waving at fans on the field of Tiger Stadium. And it’s the adventure I want to lead my kids into as we venture to Fort Collins.  

This is why I love Restoration Project: we are about men who can play like boys and not run from grief, as they are shaped into family tree changers and legacy transformers.   

 

Kevin Armstrong
Restoration Project Director of Legacy Partner Development

 

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