Dreams are the realities of the mind. They celebrate our goals and entice us to achievement. They give us hope and inspiration and, occasionally, the realization that the best dream is one that remains unfulfilled.
Jesse Larrabee dreamed. Born on an Arkansas dirt farm, his calloused hands and muscular frame were testament to the hard work demanded of an only son of the sod. At nights, on the dusty back roads, he delivered the plum moonshine that his kin had distilled for generations and that his daddy had proudly called “the purple poison”. Blessed with the peculiar ability to hit a baseball, those hot summer days of sweat and toil fueled his passion. Jesse Larrabee vowed that he would play major league baseball.
Fresh from high school, Larrabee was signed to a rookie league contract by the Cincinnati Reds.
Several batting titles later, Jesse stood on the cusp of the big leagues as the starting centerfielder in the International League all star game.
That steamy July afternoon in Richmond would sear Jesse’s memory more than the scalding sun did his body.
After ripping a two-and-two pitch down the right field line, Jesse’s gut screamed that he could make it to third. He would have but the spikes on his right shoe caught a hard portion of the infield. It was said that the crack of Jesse’s ankle could be heard as far away as the bleachers.
A man’s dream might die, but not his grit and determination. Jesse traveled the minor league circuit for several years, the ache of his reality intensifying every time another teammate, who could never be as good as he, received the big league call.
It was a cool, drizzly afternoon in late September; a day that assured that summer was gone. A mocking breeze whipped flotsam across the near-deserted stands as the last place Phillies trailed the Cincinnati Reds 9-2.
With two outs in the eighth inning, a September call-up from a triple- A affiliate tapped home plate, about to sip his major league cup of coffee. Down two strikes, the young ballplayer met a slider that didn’t and lined a single to centerfield. Although few remained to acknowledge it, one elderly fan along the first base line stood and applauded.
For a moment, the eyes of the base runner and the gentleman met; two sets of eyes, one filled with joy, the other with tears. Smiling, the ballplayer doffed his cap to the fan as the umpire handed him his first-hit baseball.
Jesse Larrabee III had a dream. After the game he would give his grandfather the baseball.
The elderly fan knew of goals, both realized and never to be. The smile on the face of a grandson, whom he had nurtured after the deaths of the boy’s parents, would salve the ache of an arthritic ankle and the emptiness of what might have been.
Jesse Larrabee had his dreams. Two of them came true that day.