Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Favor

I'm terrible at asking for favors. I like doing favors for other people, and I enjoy it when someone does something nice for me, but asking them to do something for me? It gives me the willies.

And yet, ask I did.

What got me over the Favor-Asking Threshold was wanting to do a favor for somebody else. See, Mark has a good friend (Dan) who loves the LA Dodgers. I think it's fair to say that the root of this extreme Dodger love is not the team itself. The players may be fan-worthy, but they come and go.

It's also not the City of Los Angeles. Or the contagious Dodger love effused by one-time player and longtime manager Tommy Lasorda (who, quite famously, says he bleeds Dodger blue). No, Dan's love for the Dodgers is rooted in the voice of the Dodgers--Vin Scully--the man who's been doing play-by-play coverage of Dodger ballgames for 64 seasons.

Let's pause and consider sixty-four seasons.

I do understand the love of Vin's voice. Growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles, it was the summertime soundtrack for our neighborhood. Our neighbors, the Myers, were huge into baseball and hearing Vin's voice reminds me of slip-'n'-slides and hot dogs and ballgames in the street.

But for Dan, Vin's voice was more than that. It was a constant in his life--a familiar voice full of storytelling and picture-painting and comfort.Talk about bleeding blue, Dan has never not listened to Dodger baseball.

Now, I have a friend who works for the Dodger organization. She is also an incredible puppeteer ("Feed me, Seymore!") and a scriptwriter. I met her during the book-to-movie process for Flipped, so I haven't known her all that long, but she's someone I recognized immediately as being sincere, astute, and forthright. It didn't take long to also see that she had a great big heart, and that she was someone I wanted as a friend.

My big-hearted, beautiful friend
Which is the very worst kind of person to ask a favor of.

I mean, it's just wrong to impose on a new friendship or someone's big-heartedness!

But Dan's girlfriend (learning of my Dodger connection) took me aside and asked about the possibility of getting something signed to Dan by Vin for his birthday. And knowing how much it would mean to Dan to have something signed to him by Vin, I approached the Favor-Asking Threshold and knocked.

My friend was receptive and after over a month of plotting and juggling the logistics of an epic birthday surprise, Mark & I traveled to Dodger Stadium with Dan and his girlfriend, and Dan got to shake hands with Vin and tell him what he meant to him.

Dan & Vin Scully in the Press Box Hallway
I've got to say that Vin Scully is a classy guy. He looks you in the eye. He listens. And he's funny, too. When Dan told him about falling to sleep to his voice as a kid, Vin quipped, "Yes, I'm afraid I've put a lot of people to sleep over the years."

So Dan met his idol, and he did get a signed baseball. (Mark had one tucked away in his cargo shorts and when we asked Vin if he would mind autographing it for Dan, he graciously agreed. It was only afterwards that my friend told me that their contract specifically states that they cannot ask for autographs).

As if that wasn't enough, Dan also got to meet (and get pictures with) Tommy Lasorda, and Fernando Valenzuela (a star pitcher for the Dodgers in the '80's) and Nancy Bea, the Dodger's organist since the late 1980's.

All before the game!

And then...what a game! The Dodgers (who were down from the get-go) came back to beat the Mets in the bottom of the 12th inning. It was certainly a magical night at (what Vin has dubbed) the Magic Castle.

Vin with The Running Dream
Mark and I got to meet Vin, too, and I brought him my most sports-based book as a gift. And although he probably gets all sorts of stuff from people he doesn't know, I brought it for him anyway because I wanted to give a piece of me as a token of gratitude, instead of asking for a piece of him.

Our friend told us afterwards that she had never arranged a meeting with the sportscaster before. And I could tell she was anxious about it--that she was going way out on a limb to make this happen. But she was super happy that it all worked out, and I was over-the-moon happy that I'd helped facilitate a dream-come-true moment for Dan.

And now, despite the excellent outcome, I have stepped away from the Threshold.

You won't find me near it again for a long, long time.


Unknown said...

That is so amazing that you did that! I, as a non favor asker as well, think that that was so sweet of you to do that for someone else! I'm sure you where very polite when asking your friend, and I bet that after seeing how happy Dan was, you were glad that you did come through and ask.
And I'm sure that Vin will love The Running Dream! =)

Kylie said...

I have to agree with Dan. My favorite things about baseball is one the sound of the ball hitting the bat and two the announcers. But not all announcers. I like the ones that make listening to them as exciting, sometimes even more exciting, as the game.

It is so amazing what you did! It is one of the best birthday presents that I have ever heard of. And while I am not a Dodgers fan, I liked your shirt. It reminded me a lot of Sammy.

Does Sammy play softball because of your love of baseball? It is because of Sammy that I like playing catcher the best when we do family games.

Can't wait for what you have planned for next weeks post!


Jessica said...

This post reminds me of a song that we sing at church called the "Servant Song." The first verse is: "Will you let me be your servant, let me be as Christ to you. Pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant, too." That second part can be so much harder. I'm glad everything worked out for you and your friends. Was this the secret you had a hard time keeping last week?

I liked everything about this story except that the Mets lost. I haven't followed baseball lately, and I'm not a fan of the (not so) new manager, but I'm a Mets fan because of their fans. I remember one NL championship, the Mets were down 2 games (3-1), it was the bottom of the ninth, and a rookie relief pitcher had walked bases loaded with 1 out. After the third ball, they showed the Mets fans, and they're still smiling and cheering and holding up "Miracle" signs. Even after ball 4, their smiles didn't completely fade. "There's always next year," they seemed to say.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks for the thoughts, guys :-)

This was an epic surprise, not a secret. If that makes any sense. Wish it were.

Have a homerun day, everybody! :-)

Gabrielle said...

That's really cool that you did that for your friend. And my mom has a surprise for me, she told me she did last week.... But I don't like asking a lot of favors either. And my mom likes the Yankees. And Vin would be crazy not to like the Running Dream, even though I haven't read it yet, but how could it not be good, it was written by you, Wendelin! But I'm borrowing the book from a friend so finally I'll read it. :)
Hope everybody has a great week!


Karen said...

Sixty-four seasons, wow.

I love hearing what baseball radio broadcasts are the soundtrack for in different people’s lives. Baseball for me was summer nights during elementary school with the light slowly dimming outside my windows, hanging upside down over my bed watching the digital clock display go from hOG to SOG to 90:6 (which is a numerical palindrome) to LOG to BOG to GOG and then dissolving back to incoherency at 9:10, falling asleep to Herb Carneal’s voice and startling awake at home runs and commercials.

I’m with Kylie and Dan in that my love of the game was rooted in the sounds of the game, the crowd, and the announcer -- the way they describe things and what they do when there isn’t action on the field, the conversational filler and the comfortable silences where the crowd noise filters through. That’s actually one of my favorite parts, when the crowd noise is the only thing coming through the radio and I could just about be in the stands except I’m lying on a grassy lawn or soft couch instead of sitting on a hard seat. When Herb retired I mostly stopped listening because the new guys aren’t as good.

Wendelin, I think taking along The Running Dream so you were giving as well as receiving was a good idea. And I’m glad you had a good ball game to follow -- 12th-inning turn-around, yes!

... Kylie, do you know something I don’t know about next week’s post?

Kylie said...

I kind of made it sound like I k we something about next week's post huh? I don't not, but I am always looking forward to whatever is planned for next week.


Azhar said...

That was really sweet thing to do! :)) Asking a new friend a favour like that would've been nerve wracking for me. But now you're probably glad you did seeing how happy it made Dan. And The Running Dream was an awesome book to give, I'm sure Vin is gonna enjoy it.

Have a great day! :D

Unknown said...

Funny that the Running Dream had to do with this weeks post, because my p.e teacher introduced herself a few days ago and made it really clear that she loves to run. And she was describing running in the same way that Jessica from The Running Dream was, and she really makes running seem really fun and relaxing for the most part! So one of these days when where walking out to the track or something and she is not busy, I'm going to suggest that she reads that book and tells other teachers about it to, since she has another classroom she teaches in, and what teacher doesn't encourage reading!? I'm going to try and tell her about The Running Dream next week so fingers crossed I get chance!!!=)
Just wanted to share that with y'all ;)

Jessica said...

Aww, that's awesome, Bella. I bet your teacher will like the book. And running really is like that! You can tell Wendelin is a runner by how accurately she describes it. I just read another book about running (The Runner by Cynthia Voigt), and I suspect the author was not a runner.

Only about two more weeks until I can start building back to running again (after months off to rehab patellar tendinitis, which I've had for 4 years and stubbornly refused to properly rest until now). I'm so excited!