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 April 19, 2015
The local interest section in Milwaukee's bookshops are not overflowing with titles, it's true. But there are some good books that offer insights into our city and are essential reads for Milwaukeeans and also make great gifts for visitors, family and friends that have moved out of town and for yourself!
Published April 17, 2015
I think of Milwaukee activist and former school board member Jennifer Morales as a strong advocate for the city's schools and children. Her new book, "Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories" collects nine short stories centered around Milwaukee and populated by Milwaukeeans. The richly drawn works open a window to the city and the struggles and joys experienced by its people.
Published April 17, 2015
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District has given Maryland Avenue Montessori its monthly Green Luminaries award for the rain garden that has greened a large chunk of the school's more than three-acre site.
Published April 15, 2015
As Record Store Day approaches (it's this Saturday), Foursquare and real estate brokerage Redfin combined forces to create some interesting data on the top 10 U.S. cities for fans of record stores. Milwaukee, whose vinyl shops I wrote about in February, clocks in at No. 5, below Portland and Chapel Hill, but above New York and Philly. Not bad.
Published April 15, 2015
After a week in Beijing, Bobby Tanzilo ruminates on Milwaukee's image problem in China.
Published April 13, 2015
Wanna go on a wings bender? No better place to do in these parts than West Allis. Here are four top-notch places for chicken wings.
Published April 10, 2015
Milwaukee Public Museum is, by far, the most-visited museum in the state. And, did you know, it's the sixth most-visited natural history museum in the country? Even the folks who stroll the Streets of Old Milwaukee and explore the rainforest on a regular basis can miss some of the many little details scattered around this Milwaukee institution. Here are a few to look for.
Published April 9, 2015
The way we see the world is all a matter of perspective, of point of view. Take, for example, the Milwaukee Theatre. Whenever I go inside, I rue the loss of the Auditorium's arcaded interior. On a recent tour of the both the Milwaukee Theatre and the adjacent Arena -- which I may always call the Auditorium and MECCA Arena (sorry, I can't stop myself) -- I was surprised to see how much of the auditorium remains in place.
Published April 3, 2015
Most of us have some modest food-based traditions - we like to have pizza on Tuedays, or we get ham and rolls on Sundays, etc.Over the years, some of my habits have turned a little ritualistic. They've become unspoken traditions. Here are a few of them...
Published April 2, 2015
There was a time when Milwaukee was awash in great bookshops. This is not that time. But don't fret because there is still a range of great booksellers purveying everything from fine literature to kids classics to cutting edge poetry to political works and more.