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T.J. SIMERS

Their Dodgers heroes come through in clutch

May 04, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

Rick Colton e-mails to say, "Frank McCourt rocks."

Rick Colton has some explaining to do. Or he needs help.

He says he goes back to a time when he would stand outside Dodger Stadium with his wife, Nancy, who was pregnant, in the early stages of labor and sitting on a bus bench, while he held up a sign that read, "Need tickets."

No reason to leave early, with Scott, the first of three sons, a good Colton Dodger fan waiting until a few hours after the game before making his first appearance.

Rick & Nancy, married 23 years now, were there when Kirk Gibson homered, when Fernando dueled Gooden and they still get goose bumps when they talk about the time they ran into Don Drysdale in Vero Beach.

It's not easy, though, being a Dodgers fan the last two decades. Rick complains when they stop grilling hot dogs and gets upset when the Parking Lot Attendant arrives.

"And that's what I call him, 'the Parking Lot Attendant,' " he says with some disdain. "Let me tell you about our parking experience last year when they started that new plan . . . "

But no matter what, Rick & Nancy love baseball, although they haven't gone together since the parking lot fiasco, "the night from hell," as Nancy recalls it.

More than anything, Nancy is ill, but as Rick says, "I love the peace and solitude you can find at a game. I go to a game and I don't think about cancer. So I want Nancy to go."

Rick buys tickets for aisle 40, row A, and it's just a great day. Nancy takes a break in the shade, and Vickie Gutierrez, an usher in the stadium since 1984, says to Rick, "Haven't seen you folks lately."

Rick shakes his head. "I don't know Vickie from Joe Blow, but I do recognize her because we go to so many games. We talk, and it's quite obvious to Vickie from Nancy's hair that something is going on."

A few innings later, a Dodger ambassador approaches Nancy, and says, "I understand you're a long-time Dodger fan and haven't been here for some time. Welcome back."

The young man then hands Nancy a Dodgers hat and Dodgers shirt. She's smiling. Rick is crying.

"I couldn't even tell you what happened the rest of the game," Rick says. "I don't even know if they finished the game."

He's so choked up he can't say anything to Gutierrez. The game ends, everyone goes their way and Rick goes to the Dodgers website. He wants the Dodgers to know what a good employee they have in Gutierrez.

"All I can find is the main Dodger number. You know, if you want tickets press one, if you want more tickets press two . . . they don't want you to call them," he says. "I found an e-mail of some man on their Think Cure website, wrote about Vickie, but never got an answer."

On his way to work he just keeps driving, still intent on giving Gutierrez her due. He goes to Dodger Stadium, and a young man listens as he talks about the usher -- McCourt just happening by.

"This is the man that should be listening to my story," Rick says, and so McCourt stops, and for the next 45 minutes, "he acts like I'm the most important thing in his life.

"This guy just blew me away. What I saw was a family man genuinely concerned with what I had going on at home. My life right now is putting smiles on Nancy's face, and you do that and I'm going to put a smile on your face. That's why I wrote to say that Mr. McCourt rocks."

Definitely brings a smile to the face.

"We're getting calls from the Dodgers about doing this and that with my wife, and I realize they're probably using us for good PR," Rick says. "I'm no dummy, but I don't care. Nancy is smiling.

"I don't care if it's good for them; it's good for my wife. Frank McCourt did the right thing, and it showed me I have a family man who owns the Dodgers."

October 2005, and doctors tell Nancy she has breast cancer. She undergoes six surgeries by the end of the year, while the experts talk of a three-to-five-year life expectancy from the time diagnosed -- the Stage IV cancer metastasizing to her bones. And now her liver.

"There is no cure," she says. "But I believe if I stay healthy and alive long enough, some brilliant creative scientist will come up with something.

"I have a five-year plan, which begins fresh every new day. I want to see my older son graduate from college, my middle son graduate from high school, my nephew's Bar Mitzvah, my 50th birthday, our 25th anniversary . . . "

Rick & Nancy talked about retirement and maybe renting an RV until someone said it's a bad idea. "We talked about following the Dodgers," she says, "but I don't have a retirement plan now. We went to Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field last year -- lifelong dreams. We're talking about the big green monster now in Boston.

"It's about keeping your head in the right place, and about hope," she says, "keep moving forward and living life. I have three kids, the youngest 9, and while this man is the finest human being I have ever known and a great dad, the kids still want their mommy when they're sick. Giving up for me is not an option."

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