Sometimes life throws you a curveball or three. Just ask Jason Cole, a chef at Mitchell's Fish Market in Brookfield Square.
When Cole was about 7 years old he got a chance to meet Robin Yount at a Sears store in LaCrosse. Though he waited in line, when it was his turn, he – and Yount – realized Cole had nothing to for the Brewers' star to sign.
"He was my favorite player – probably a lot of people's at that time," remembers Cole. "We waited in line for what seemed like an eternity. Well, I didn't have anything (to be signed). They had some black and white photos copied onto paper but Yount decided I needed a ball."
Yount being Yount, curveball No. 1...
"He took me over to the sports section, helped me pick out a Rawlings ball, bought it and signed it," Cole recalls. "I think that was about the coolest thing that could happen to a young baseball fan!"
But the love affair with that treasured ball was a brief one, says Cole. Curveball No. 2.
"I guess I didn't realize how special it was. Like a dummy, I took it out and was coaxed into playing some sandlot baseball with it and eventually I lost it. I think I searched for that ball for about a month. I was so upset at myself for losing that ball!"
OK, maybe that was more a knuckleball.
Though Cole learned to live without the ball, he never forgot about it, and the story of how Robin Yount bought him a baseball and signed it – and of how Cole lost it in a pickup game – became a recurring tale in his life.
"My wife has heard this story a million times," he says. "She was probably sick of it!"
His wife Kim works with my wife. So, though Jason – whom I'd never met before – is only discovering this part now, I'd heard about the quest for the ball early in summer. Kim was determined to get him a replacement for their third wedding anniversary on Aug. 22.
She knew that the Brewers' Davey Nelson was a customer at the now closed Kincaid's and had met Jason when he was chef there.
"I hope you don't mind my writing to you," she wrote in a letter to Nelson. "I have a bit of an odd request that I'm not sure how to fulfill. I hoped you could help.
"Jason is a wonderful husband and an amazing father to our baby daughter. It is our third wedding anniversary this year ... I want to get him something special and have an idea for a gift that he would treasure."
Kim says she always aims to get anniversary gifts he will keep forever. "I had this gift idea in the back of my mind for a couple of years and this seemed like the perfect opportunity," she says.
You got it, folks, another curveball and this time, one that Kim and Davey would work together on to send up, up, up and outta here. Kim says that Nelson and Yount really came through and never asked for anything in return for the signed ball.
"She knows Yount is still my favorite Brewer of all time and I've recently started a small collection of baseball memorabilia – bobbleheads and jerseys, that kind of stuff," says Cole. "We are planning to finish our basement this winter and I'll be displaying everything there. I don't have any autographs and I had been lamenting that lost ball a lot lately."
Recommended gift for a third anniversary? Leather.
"She has always been a really good gift-giver, puts a lot of thought and effort into it. But this tops it all. I can't compete with this. Can you?"
Cole says he had no idea that Kim was working on securing this pitch-perfect anniversary gift.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was a huge surprise and it really meant a lot to me that she did this. I didn't cry, but I might have come close," he says.
"When I gave Jason the ball, he said, in disbelief, 'What is this?' and then not much else," Kim recalls. "He was literally left speechless for a few moments. I got a big hug and he told me it was the most meaningful gift he'd ever received. He took pictures with his iPhone and texted them to his parents and some friends. Then he put the ball on the mantle in our living room. I let him leave it there for a few days.
"My friends keep telling me that I've set the bar too high for next year, and they might be right. The year four gift is flowers. They also tell me that they won't tell their husbands this story for fear of setting unrealistic expectations."
So, Jason, can we go outside and toss that new baseball around a bit?
"Ha ha, never. It sat in a case on our mantle for a few days before my wife made me move it to my shelf in the office with the other memorabilia I have. I think I'll leave it there. At least until my daughter needs to learn to catch.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Oct. 2, 2015
With such a burgeoning dining scene, it can sometimes take some effort to keep up, much less think back about how Milwaukee has become such a diners' delight. But OnMilwaukee's own dining guru, Lori Fredrich, has made it easy. Fredrich has written the first real in-depth book about Milwaukee's exciting dining scene and how it got that way.
Published Oct. 2, 2015
Milwaukee is a city rife with associations, from beer to brats, Hogs to "Happy Days." But for devoted fans of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Milwaukee means only one thing: the bomb scare show - that Thursday night in October 1975 when the band's Cream City concert was halted by a bomb threat and resumed three hours later, resulting in a high-energy show unlike any other the band would ever perform. Are you loose?!
Published Sept. 29, 2015
With a string of three shows by unrivaled country megastar Garth Brooks on tap at the BMO Harris Bradley Center last week, the postponement of an anticipated 50th anniversary tour concert by The Who at the venue, and the drive to build a replacement for the BC clearing its final hurdle, it seemed like the perfect time to sit down with the Bradley Center's Director of Booking Doug Johnson to talk about the past, present and future.
Published Sept. 25, 2015
Our first stop on a long road trip east? A 15-minute drive to Bay View to board the Lake Express Ferry. The two-and-half-hour trip not only saved us navigating Chicago on a Friday morning, but was also great fun in itself. And there's definitely something to be said for arriving in Michigan ready to go with a full tank of gas.
Published Sept. 22, 2015
Milwaukee's City Plan Commission yesterday approved architects' Engberg Anderson's plan to rehab and add onto the former First German Methodist Church - later dubbed Building 23 after Pabst purchased it - at 1037 W. Juneau Ave. That means the project can now officially move forward.
Published Sept. 21, 2015
Though Kenny Baldwin was a drummer with local bands like Colour Radio and Locate Your Lips, he was most influential behind the scenes at his family's club, The Starship, and for his many years of production work at Summerfest. Beloved by everyone who knew him, Baldwin lost a long battle with cancer on Friday.
Published Sept. 18, 2015
We've all seen the Milwaukee neighborhood posters. Decades after their first appearance, these images endure. These iconic 1980s posters were created by then-city employee Jan Kotowicz and featured a long essay by historian John Gurda on the reverse. The posters have now also served as an anchor for a weighty new tome published by Historic Milwaukee Inc. The 472-page book, "Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods," was written by Gurda and includes 11 new poster images created by the now-retired Kotowicz.
Published Sept. 17, 2015
When Milwaukee artist Ariana Huggett started to leak out images of the paintings for her upcoming show, "Old Schools" - on view Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 19-20, in conjunction with Doors Open Milwaukee, at the Material Studios + Gallery in the Third Ward - a lot of folks took notice.
Published Sept. 16, 2015
Last night, Milwaukee Public Library upped the number of Wisconsin Writers Wall of Fame inductees when it added Increase Lapham to the Badger State pantheon.
Published Sept. 16, 2015
Though the newly buffed Streets of Old Milwaukee won't open to the public until Dec. 11 - work is currently on schedule, according to museum staff - I got a peek inside this week, along with MPM's Director of Exhibits Julian Jackson.