A few weeks before remarkable 8-year-old Dominic Johnson died of brain cancer, Royals’ first baseman Eric Hosmer visited him in the hospital.
On June 9, a Royals’ off-day, Hosmer on Twitter posted a picture of Dominic, writing, “Thinking and praying for my little buddy Dominic today. Continue to stay strong buddy we are all with you.”
The next day against the White Sox in Chicago, Hosmer hit two home runs — his first multi-home run game since 2013.
Some with the Royals immediately believed it was inspired by Dominic.
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Though he’s not apt to elaborate publicly about such things, it wasn’t the first time Hosmer has had a strong emotional investment in an ailing child.
“Dominic I love you little buddy,” Hosmer wrote June 22 on Twitter. “Rest in peace.”
▪ Was bummed out to see our guy Cam F. Awesome of Lenexa lost his bout on Monday in Venezuela, ending his Olympic bid despite winning the U.S. boxing trials.
Awesome is a charismatic, fun, warm-hearted guy you want to see succeed.
It marked the second straight time he’d won the Olympic trials but didn’t get to go to the Games. He missed out four years ago as part of his punishment for failing to be available for three drug tests over an 18-month period.
His coach, John Brown, believes USADA made him a scapegoat for its inability to nab others.
Whatever the case, the effect then was to reinvigorate Awesome.
He changed his name from Lenroy Thompson to bury his past and became a vegan as part of a newfound drive that has included working toward being a comedian and motivational speaker.
If life were Hollywood, of course, he’d have prevailed and gone on to Olympic glory.
Instead … cruel reality struck again.
“I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing next but I think I may be done with boxing,” he wrote Monday on Facebook. “Time to re-re-reinvent myself. ... I haven’t been home in 64 days, my body is beat, and I’m mentally exhausted. I’m going to take some Cam time while I figure out my career confusion. I’m disappointed I’m not going to the games but I’m in good spirits. Thanks for the support! Happy 240th bday America.”
Whether it’s in or out of the ring, really looking forward to seeing what comes next for him.
▪ Couldn’t hear sound on the TV the other night when we were waiting to sit down at La Bodega (loved every bite of the seven small plates four of us shared), so I have no idea how many Phillies fans were booing Royals’ pitcher Danny Duffy when he left the game with two outs in the ninth.
But I was struck to see what looked like a few dozen red-clad fans near the dugout clapping for an opponent — a phenomenon I don’t remember seeing when I was growing up there and going to The Vet any chance I could.
▪ Spoke recently with Great American Gymnastics Express Center coach Al Fong about Brenna Dowell, his protégé and aspiring Olympian who through the recent U.S. nationals in St. Louis advanced to this weekend’s Olympic trials in San Jose.
If Dowell makes the six-woman team (including an alternate), this would mark the fourth straight Olympics one of his pupils with wife Armine Barutyan-Fong has been aboard either as a competitor (Terin Humphrey and Courtney McCool in 2004) or an alternate (Ivana Hong in 2008 and Sarah Finnegan in 2012).
Fong has some notions about the future, too. Though he generally declined to name names, he smiled at the mention of promising current disciple Sophia Pujols, the daughter of Albert and Deidre Pujols.
Sophia, whose age could not immediately be confirmed but either is 9 or 10 now, is an elite-level gymnast who lives in Kansas City and trains exclusively at GAGE.
“She’s got her dad’s genes,” Fong said. “For sure.”
▪ At spring training 2015, Pujols told reporters of his emotions upon seeing her win a competition in St. Louis.
“To see her raise that trophy up, the smile and (look) in her eye … there’s nothing more precious,” he said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “My wife and I were sitting next to each other. Tears were coming out of our eyes. I can’t imagine if she got the opportunity to go to the Olympics. It would be pretty exciting.”
Sophia would only be 14 by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, so barring a rule change or exception from the 16-year-old minimum age she won’t be eligible until the 2024 Olympics.
But Pujols, whose contract expires in 2021, said if she were somehow to compete in 2020 …
“That might have to be the year I retire. You can put that in the paper, because I don’t want to miss it. … Either that, or they’ll have to put me on the disabled list for two weeks.”
▪ I’ve been privileged to know the infinitely talented Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports since our days at Mizzou and the Columbia Missourian in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Our paths have crossed ever since, though not often enough. Seems to me we saw “Field of Dreams” together in Louisville in 1989.
Though as geezers now we both find ourselves fuzzy on if that definitely was the movie we went to, hey, it’s what came to mind for me last week as Pat prepared to watch two of his children compete in the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Omaha.
Enjoyed talking to him about it the other day, and bet you’ll enjoy his ever-thoughtful perspective on it, too.
▪ One other thing Pat and I share is a connection to Gary Barnett, the Mizzou grad who later coached Northwestern and Colorado.
Pat played football for Barnett at Air Academy High in Colorado, and I wrote a book called “High Hopes” with him after he took Northwestern to the Rose Bowl.
Their rival at Air Academy was Palmer High, which had an absolutely offensive mascot called “Eagle Beak” that was a caricature of Native Americans.
To fire his team up for the game one year, Barnett rode in to practice on a horse … only to have his tactic backfire when it threw him.
So he took a new approach by naming Pat “Eagle Beak” for a nose that “very much resembled” the namesake.
During game week the next three years, players would lift him on their shoulders chanting, “Eagle Beak, Eagle Beak, Eagle Beak.” The nickname stuck.