I should have been sitting in the press box at the Kansas City Royals home opener on Thursday.
I’ve envisioned watching Joe Cusack’s and Tyler Rathke’s track and field teams match their respective coach’s enthusiasm.
And I anticipated marveling at the command lanky Grain Valley senior Jacob Misiorowski has on the mound for the Eagles baseball team.
Instead, I’m quarantined at home with my amazing wife Stacy and our three wiener dogs – 13-year-old Marley, Weezer and Darla – who keep things lively and fun.
I have done far too many interviews with athletes I respect who were unable to compete in a final four or complete their senior high school season or their freshman collegiate spring sports campaign this spring.
I have cried as I watched a story about a 90-year-old woman who died after gently refusing a ventilator so a younger person could use it.
And I am enraged and saddened by the tale of the ER doctor who was forced to use the same mask through four shifts. He too died of COVID-19.
My new heroes are those on the front lines of this fight against an unseen and deadly virus that seems like it jumped straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster, with Dustin Hoffman or Morgan Freeman fighting to find the cure before our world goes up in flame.
I needed a break from the misery, so I began scanning through some photos and found a series of snapshots of members of the Grain Valley High School baseball team working at the home of Janet and Joe Tabler.
It seems now like those photos were taken light years ago.
Joe Tabler had purchased some yard pavers last summer, but a series of health issues kept them sitting in his driveway, collecting dust and frustrating the once vibrant handyman who was simply too sick to get to work in his yard.
When Grain Valley baseball coach Brian Driskell heard about the Tablers’ plight, he sent members of his team over to rectify the situation.
I watched in disbelief as these freshmen, sophomores, juniors and a lone senior dug up some rotten lumber timbers and replaced them with the pavers.
It made me smile, but my smile was dim in comparison to the smiles on the faces of Joe and Janet – who, by the way, baked a large pan of fresh cinnamon rolls for the workers.
“There’s no way we can thank these young men,” Janet said. “This means the world to us, especially to Joe.”
As junior Cole Keller chowed down on a cinnamon roll, he quipped, “This is the best payment I’ve ever received.”
Cole’s dad, John, a professional landscaper, was even on hand to oversee the project.
Those are the things I miss the most – interaction, saving the day, riding to the rescue in an old pickup truck armed with rakes, shovels and good intentions.
I miss those Saturday mornings where a group of dedicated student-athletes, coaches and a caring parent take time to help someone in need.
I’ve seen countless good deeds during this time of fear, isolation and doubt. The heroes now wear surgical gloves and masks instead of capes or a baseball glove.
We are living through a time in our lives no one has experienced, and God willing, no one will ever have to experience again.
I can’t wait to get out of the house, call up a buddy for lunch, treat Stacy to dinner at Tim’s Pizza, have the neighborhood kids come play with Marley, Weezer and Darla and go to bed at night without wondering when my oldest son Zach will be able to go back to work in St. Louis.
Over the past two weeks, I have received three phone calls that came out of the blue. They were unexpected, straight from the heart and meant more to me than the callers will ever imagine.
So, I have begun calling those closest to me, just to let them know that while we cannot get together, we can still keep in touch. And right now, that is my cure for this disease.
I’m praying, keeping in touch with those closest to me and counting the days, the hours and the minutes until this is all a bad memory and I can go out and give someone a hug.
How about you?
– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC