It’s not every day that you get to be a part of something special. Working in baseball however, provides me with some extra-special opportunities. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do!
About a month or so ago, I received a call from Molly Grantham of WBTV News. Molly does a lot of great work with people who are battling cancer. When we spoke, she filled me in on a story that was near and dear to my heart — and to my co-workers. She told me former Knights player Richie Grayum was recently diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. That hit home for me and our organization.
I met Richie back in 2013 at Knights Stadium. We talked baseball on Father’s Day at Knights Stadium. He threw out a first pitch and I interviewed him for our pre-game show. It was nice to meet someone who played for the Knights and still lived in the community years after his playing days with the Knights came to an end. I didn’t know at that time just how many lives he touched though.
A few months later, I got back in touch with Richie and invited him to Knights Stadium for our final-ever game in Fort Mill. It was a bittersweet moment for many. After 25 years in Fort Mill and 24 at Knights Stadium, the Knights were moving to Uptown Charlotte in 2014. For Richie, Knights Stadium was a place full of memories. He hit the first home run there in 1990 and he was a big part of the first-ever Knights team to play at “The Castle”. He returned to the Knights for the 1992 season and hit 23 home runs for the Knights over two seasons (229 games).
Remembering all of that, I knew I wanted to do what I could to honor Richie. Molly and I talked about the possibilities. She then put me in touch with one of Richie’s co-workers, Kim Wisch, who was the one who was so instrumental in this entire event. Kim and I talked about some of the things we could do. And then it just continued to grow — and grow — and grow.
Kim and I picked a day. We talked frequently. We both had ideas but even with all of the planning, we had no idea what to expect. Kim made and distributed t-shirts with Richie’s baseball card on it. She worked with Richie’s wife Denise to figure out a way to bring Richie to the ballpark as a surprise. They convinced him he was getting a tour of the ballpark. It worked!
Kim contacted family and friends — spreading the word to many people who knew Richie. In all, over 300 of his friends, family members, co-workers, and supporters, came out to BB&T Ballpark on Saturday, March 21 for a pep rally for Richie.
Saturday first started out as a day for season ticket holders to pick up their tickets, take a few swings on the field for a special batting practice session, enjoy complimentary food, and to just enjoy a nice day at the ballpark as the season quickly approaches.
For the Grayum family — especially Richie — the day turned out to be much, much more.
Kim and her crew arrived around 12:30 PM and we set up a spot inside the ballpark to greet all of Richie’s supporters as they arrived. One-by-one, family and friends made their way to the ballpark. They picked up a Richie shirt, put it on, and then went to section 103 and 104 to wait for their hero. After a pep talk from Knights GM Scotty Brown, Richie’s supporters stayed in their seats in anticipation.
Right on cue — around 1:30 PM — the Grayum family arrived at BB&T Ballpark. Richie still had no idea.
We immediately ushered Richie to sections 103 and 104 and what he saw next was certainly a shock! Over 300 of his friends were on hand to support him. This #Rally4Richie was like no other.
Richie made his way down to the field. He addressed the crowd, thanked them, and spoke from the heart. I then walked over and presented him with a replica jersey from his 1990 season. It was a perfect fit!
We then walked him over to home plate where he stepped into the batter’s box. He took some swings at home plate behind hundreds of cheers and did extremely well. There were many ooohs and ahhs after he lined balls into the outfield. He made it look easy.
After he was done, he was embraced by his family. There was still one more surprise though.
Throughout the week, Kim emailed us video messages from some of his former teammates and friends. He watched them as they played on the videoboard. Each one was touching and heartfelt.
Media members from WBTV and NBC Charlotte then interviewed Richie. He talked about the overwhelming support and much more. One thing he said really stuck with me, “Love your family, love your friends and appreciate life as it comes. You’re never promised another day.”
Great words from a great man.
Thanks to all who came out on Saturday in support of Richie. Thank you Molly Grantham, Kim Wisch, and of course Richie, Denise, and the Grayum family. We’re all here for you Richie. We support you every step of the way!
I’ll be talking to Richie on ESPN 730 AM on Sunday morning from 7 AM to 8 AM. Hope you can tune in here: http://espn730.com/