Day 27 “Slay the Dragon Hudson!”

I arrived at Houston Astros spring training complex about two hours prior to the game at 1 p.m. against the Washington Nationals. I wanted to record the stadium for the rankings that I am doing. I wanted to make sure that Todd had better footage and I had a steadier hand, compared to the McKechnie Field video.  I had captured video of Space Coast Stadium on Monday and Champion Field on Tuesday, I think I was getting a little better.

It was overcast and looked like rain so I decided to write up my review on Space Coast before I went in. I made the right choice as it started raining quite hard about 20 minutes later. I worked on the review as it rained for about an hour and the game wasn’t going to start on time – delayed until 2.  This was all good for me. I could get some good video and finish my review as I waited! I got out of my car and ran into a married couple from Washington D.C.. They asked if I was alone, I said, “I was”. He said “I have an extra ticket.” I asked, “how much?” The gentleman said, “free”- I like free. I saved money and after I explained what I was doing, got my story. They agreed to be profiled. I told them I wanted video of the stadium, but I would catch up to them when the game started.

I got great video that Todd will be pleased with; or, so I think. I went to the seats. They were three rows behind the Nationals dugout, but my couple was sitting in the first row with young kids in-between them and me (Great cute kids, they were going to get all the balls from the players between innings). I thought they took the wrong seats, I was correct. But I was going to have to sit in my ticketed spot and I won’t have a story until my couple came to take their seats. I waited until the 2nd inning to get into my seat, the rightful ticket holders of row one didn’t show up. I was worried I won’t get the profile…  When I sat in my seat the lady next to me said jokingly that I didn’t want to sit there “we get a little loud”. I heard her husband a few times yell, “Way to fire,”  and “Work him” at the Nationals pitcher. (He is a Nationals fan but, there is another team I will mention in a moment)

Deby MacWilliams
Deby MacWilliams

Deby MacWilliams, 61, a retired physical education teacher (38 years), who does some substituting on the side, came down to Florida from Chambersburg, PA with her husband, Kirk, of 39 years. They came to catch some spring training games, Nationals-Astros on this day and Orioles-Yankees the next. I inquired which team was her favorite. Deby said, “I really don’t have a favorite team anymore, I just love the competition of baseball, all 30 teams.” Then a bit later, she said, “I can’t stand the Phillies, so really just 29”. She went on to explain that her Dad got her into “rooting” for the Boston Red Sox when she was growing up in Chambersburg. “He used to always have it on the radio” Deby reflected. However, she never has gotten over to Fenway to watch a game (my Red Sox friends are probably cursing her right now, thinking “that is so wrong”). Since they are in easy driving distance to the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals, it is hard to pick one team. Her husband is a Yankees fan (more groans from the Red Sox friends). They go to all three places every year to catch games, about 10 she says. “I love the atmosphere of the ball park”, Deby volunteers and motions with her hand.  “When it comes to football, I am a huge Redskins fan”, Deby states and then laughs making the statement, “I hate pro basketball but love college basketball.”

Her son T.J., 31, is a big Orioles fan. Deby said that a couple years ago when she was heading to Austin, TX where her daughter Emily was living at the time and was about to have twins, Cal Ripken, Jr. was on the same flight. She recognized him, no one else had, so she went up to him and quietly asked him for his autograph for T.J.. She said, “he was the nicest man.” Emily is also a Yankees fan, so at times it became fun and very competitive in the house. Deby told me she has always had a competitive spirit. She was a coach for volleyball, track and field, and cross country. In 1980, her track and field team won state. In 2006, one of her girls won an individual state championship in cross country.  Kirk played on the local merchants baseball team, the Chambersburg Maroons. He was an outfielder, he also played some recreational softball.

“There he goes!” Kirk yelled when an Astro took off for 2nd base…  I chuckled to myself. Deby said, “he would get more intense if it was a Yankees game (I love fans that get intimately involved with the game).  Kirk used to coach T.J.’s and Emily’s teams when they were growing up, Deby said, “they met in junior high school and dated on and off thru high school. He played football and basketball, she was a cheerleader, she had a smile on her face as she was recalling all of that. They didn’t start dating seriously until after she came back from college (Shepard College in West Virginia, only time she lived away from Chambersburg). She loves his “love” of sports and his sense of humor. Deby confesses “he is always making her laugh and has a great attitude,” saying further, “he doesn’t get worked up over little stuff, he just enjoys life.”

Deby explained that when she was growing up in the 1960’s, girls didn’t have that many options when it came to competitive sports as they do today. It was either field hockey or basketball in high school. She played field hockey. Until Title 9 came about things didn’t change. Deby is grateful that girls have more opportunities. The daughter of a friend, who was with her at this game, was the first girl from Chambersburg to get a “full ride” to a D1 school to play softball.

Deby and me...
Deby and me…

Deby grabbed my arm to tell me about her grandson Charlie, Emily’s son, he called her the other night to tell her about the game winning hit he got while playing but then said out of the blue that he shaved his head to support his little sister, she smiled then told me about Hudson, fraternal twin to Kingsley. Hudson was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on November 7, 2013.  “She is such a strong little girl,” Deby said.  She told me what Hudson has gone through with the chemo and losing her hair. Hudson’s only worry when the Oncologist told her that she would be losing the rest of her hair with more treatments was – could she get her ears pierced! Hudson told the doctor that she had some cool hats at home to wear so she wasn’t worried about the hair. On her and Kingsley’s 4th birthday, they suggested they donate all their presents to the “really sick kids” at Children Healthcare of Atlanta (forgot to mention Emily moved to Atlanta when her husband was transferred a little over a year ago).  Pretty remarkable, to say the least.

Hudson Strong!
Hudson Strong!

“Wanted to donate their presents,” Deby said with what I think was a tear in her eye, I know I had one… “F?&% Leukemia”, Deby said, I agreed. She said it is the hardest thing she has ever had to face. She told me that they explain to kids what cancer is with a book. In the book; cancer is a dragon. She says that Hudson now says that she has to “Slay her Dragon”.  If you want to know more about Hudson and the challenges she faces and how you can help please go to her website: www.hudsonstrong.org.

I enjoyed spending those couple of hours with you Deby, you have a great sense of humor and an easy laugh, I wish you all the best, I didn’t talk to your husband Kirk but, “In the book” and “Might as well take off for the dugout” are still going through my head, I am sure he would make me laugh also, thanks for sharing your story!

If you enjoy this story and you would like to help me complete the “Baseball in America Tour 2014” which is roughly 265 days, please click on the following link to see how you can help http://www.baseballbuddha.com/sponsor.html .  Please also share this on your Facebook page and Twitter, I appreciate all the help I can get!

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