Jack Baur displays his Hanley Ramirez-autographed bat. (Photo courtesy the Baur…)
This is not a Christmas story, though it is about giving. It is about doing the right thing, about how the youngest of us can sometimes offer a shining light.
This story takes place Sept. 15, when in the middle of the game Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez swung hard, only to have the bat fly out of his hands and rocket into the stands.
The bat hit the shoulder of a curly-haired boy sitting in the club seats just to the left of home plate and ricocheted over the rest of the rows. Jack Baur, an 11-year-old walking in the aisle behind the club seats, saw the bat fall, glance off his shoulder and land miraculously at his feet.
Baur picked up the bat, held it with both hands and looked up at his father, Ron.
But then as they are required, security came to retrieve the unbroken bat and return it to the player. And it was gone. Paramedics arrived to check on the first boy, who was unharmed. A brief “give him the bat” chant came from fans.
Sitting in the owner’s box on that cool Saturday night was the Dodgers' highest profile co-owner Magic Johnson. Seeing what had transpired, Magic retrieved a couple of baseballs, walked over to the stunned boys, signed them, gave one to each and posed for pictures.
“The story would have ended nicely right there, if not for something that happened after the game,” said Bruce Nash.
Nash is a television producer and season-ticket holder from Sherman Oaks, who was taking all this in from his seat behind the Dodgers dugout.
After the Dodgers rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Cardinals, 4-3, Nash remained in his seats to visit with friends while the crowd cleared. He saw young Jack standing with his father and security guard Richard Montano near the edge of the dugout, when a bat emerged and was handed to Jack.
Someone else had seen this unfold.
“Off to our right by the owners’ box, standing there was the boy who got hit by the force of the blow with a woman. Just watching,” Nash said. “Then this young boy, Jack Baur, gets the bat and he walks it over to the boy who got hit with the force of it and gives it to him.”
The stadium was emptying now, but Nash became transfixed.
"There was a little bit of, 'You take it. No, you take it,' " Nash remembered. “But Jack finally said, `No, you got hit hardest. It’s yours.’ I watched this and thought, 'Wow, this is really special. What a selfless act. I wish more people were here to see what this 11-year-old kid did.' "
As Nash began to exit the stadium, he came upon the Baurs and told the 11-year-old what a marvelous thing he had done. Only Jack’s bright eyes had dimmed.
"He was kind of hanging his head a little bit," Nash said. "He knew he’d done the right thing and his dad was really proud of him. But as soon as Jack gave the bat away, he realized that he had just given away the most prized possession that had ever come into his 11-year-old hands."
Nash, also co-author of “The Baseball Hall of Shame,” knew members of the Dodgers' public relations department, gave his business card to Ron Baur and told him he’d try to see whether he could come up with another bat. The Baurs were actually visiting from the Chicago area.
The next day he contacted Joe Jareck, the Dodgers' assistant public relations director, and explained what had happened Saturday night.
Replied Jareck: “I can’t promise you anything, but let me talk to Hanley, tell him what happened and see what he can do.”
The next morning he received an email from Jareck: “I got the bat.”
Nash forwarded a bat that Ramirez had broken in a game to the Baurs in Kenilworth, Ill. The day after it arrived, Jack took it and his Magic Johnson-signed baseball to school for show-and-tell. Today it is proudly displayed in the Baur game room.
Two kids, plenty of adults doing the right thing, one happy ending for all.
“To me if all fans, if all people were like Jack Baur, the world would be a better place,” Nash said.
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