From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Baseball Game Plan

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

Proverbs 16:9

When her father died of a heart attack, Kelli was a nine-year-old little girl with blonde hair and hazel eyes. She first came into my life when I met her mother in 1986. Carolyn and I were married that same year. I had one son, Kevin, from my previous marriage, and Kelli was the daughter I never thought I’d have. I never tried to replace her father, only to be her dad and a good friend. Over the years, she and I gained a closeness few step-relationships ever hope to attain. She and Kevin were by my side through the good times and the not-so-good. I watched her with pride through dance recitals and volleyball games, through high-school proms and college graduation. I saw her grow from a little kid in pigtails to a beautiful, mature and successful woman. Even when she was twenty-five years old, living in Texas and in a serious relationship, she and I were best friends.

That summer of 2002, I fulfilled a childhood dream— going to historic Fenway Park in Boston. A young man sitting next to my wife and me leaned over and politely asked if he could get us something from the concession stand. As a Texas sportswriter for over thirty years, I’d been to hundreds of games and never had a total stranger be so considerate. I was struck by the thoughtfulness of this twenty-five-year-old man from Maine. I liked Dave the moment we met. We visited throughout the game about sports, our families and my grandkids. Afterward, we continued to keep in contact through e-mails and phone calls. When Carolyn and I were in New England to visit our grandchildren, Dave and I got together again and became close friends.

In October the following year, Dave and I drove to Boston to watch the Yankees and the Red Sox in an exciting playoff game. After the game, I telephoned Kelli in Texas just to say “hi.” During my conversation, for no reason, I handed my cell phone to Dave to say “hello” to her. It was the first time they’d spoken. Although he spent only a few minutes on the phone with her, he told me he felt like he had known her for years and remarked how he wished she wasn’t married.

To his disbelief, I told him she wasn’t. Two days later, he called her in Texas, and their relationship took off. Over the next three weeks they talked for hours late into the night, learning more about each other in a month than some married couples know in years. Dave and Kelli admitted then that they had finally found the person they had been looking for all their lives. We didn’t take them seriously at first. But it didn’t take long to see it was the real thing. Kelli eventually moved to Maine, and she and Dave got engaged on Valentine’s Day 2004. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I walked her down the aisle of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Portland, Maine, and placed her hand firmly in the hands of Dave Walton for what I know will be a lifetime of happiness.

I know I’m not the reason they fell in love. God just used me and baseball to fulfill his game plan.

Larry Bodin

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