By now, the boy has seen himself go euphoric in front of the world more times than he can count. He’s watched the video on his dad’s phone, and he’s seen it on “SportsCenter,” and he’s heard from what feels like everyone he knows in the world telling him they’ve seen it, too.
Luke Blomquist’s reaction to catching his favorite Royals player’s hat the other night is one of the best moments of this season, and that is not a statement on the team’s disappointing place in the standings.
At their best, sports give us these moments of pure elation, dependent on nothing but a connection, to the point that a game on a Monday night between two teams below .500 attended by 13,976 people in Florida can be remembered forever and drive a fourth grader to do this:
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“Me and my dad have seen that video like a million times,” Luke says. “It makes my dad laugh. I just smile really big.”
The story gets better. Luke is 10 years old, and just finished his first year of kid pitch at Johnson County 3&2. His dad works for the Kansas City Police Department. Luke plays third base and pitcher, mostly.
He got into baseball two years ago, along with so many around town, during the Royals’ incredible and improbable run to the World Series, but his dad says Luke would be “completely absorbed” by the sport even if the local team was no good.
He cuts out pictures of baseball players, and articles about baseball players, and in his spare time draws pictures of baseball players. He is the kind of fan a lot of us are as kids, and the kind of fan some of us continue to be as adults.
“Everything, pretty much,” he says when asked his favorite thing about baseball.
Danny Duffy is Luke’s favorite player. Tied with Eric Hosmer, who gave him an autograph the other night. Duffy pitched against the Angels last week at Kauffman Stadium with Luke and his dad in the seats, and it doesn’t take much to make a connection.
Luke’s father, John, made his way near the field in Florida the other night and told Duffy what happened. Duffy said his wife showed him the video, and he loved it, and invited them on the field for batting practice Wednesday night.
“Honestly, I think it was one of the greatest nights of his life,” John said. “He just could not believe it when we left there. It was really exciting for both of us.”
There’s a little twist to the story that makes this even better. It’s about the different ways we all consume sports. As you can probably imagine, the hat Duffy threw was absolutely filthy. Not just from the sweat of 110 pitches and 16 strikeouts in one of the best pitched games in Royals history.
But, these being the Royals, that hat is also drenched in Gatorade. Lots and lots of Gatorade, from catcher Salvador Perez doing his customary double splash during the onfield postgame interview.
Duffy considered the hat unwearable, which is part of why he threw it.
“I saw a kid up there, in Royals colors,” Duffy said, “and I thought, ‘Man, this hat is pretty much done with the amount of Gatorade that Salvy just poured on me. I just thought I’d throw him a hat. I felt bad for not stopping, but I had to get into the clubhouse and celebrate the win with the boys.
“I just threw it up there, and I get (back to the hotel), and my wife said, ‘Did you see how that kid reacted?’ I said, ‘What kid?’ So she showed me the video, and I had a bigger smile on my face than he had on his, probably.”
“I agree with you, man. The best things about sports aren’t necessarily game related. It’s about what the game does for certain people, and things happen that changes their days, their months. It’s really cool.”
So, remember how Duffy said part of the reason he threw his hat is because of how soaked it became?
In Luke’s eyes, that’s one of the best parts.
“He asked me,” John said, “he said, ‘How long will it smell like Gatorade? I hope forever.’”