A Day In The Life Of, “RJ The Travelling Soldier”
By Matthew Van Wormer
Just over a month ago, we brought you the story of RJ Breisacher, an Army Sergeant who had finished his time in the military and was now going to live the dream of many baseball fans; he was getting in a car, driving around the country and stopping at every baseball stadium or ballpark the country had to offer. We at Did The Tribe Win Last Night wanted to make RJ’s trip to Cleveland as memorable as possible and I think we were able to give him a day that he won’t soon forget.
RJ’s day in Cleveland started at Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood. I had contacted Matt Fish, owner of Melt, a few weeks back to see if he would accommodate us and do something special for RJ. He agreed to take care of lunch for RJ and give him a taste of the best sandwich Cleveland had to offer. We sat down to eat, ordered our food (RJ got the Parmageddon, a Melt staple) and started talking about RJ’s trip so far. Cleveland is only his fourth stop so we talked in great detail about his favorite things at each of the three parks he had already been too; Comerica Park (Detroit), Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh). None of them did what we had planned for RJ once we reached downtown.
After lunch, which RJ absolutely loved, we were about to walk out the door when the manager on duty informed me that Matt was almost to the store and if we wanted to wait around for a couple minutes, he would love to meet RJ. Matt rolled in, talked to RJ about baseball and stadiums for a few minutes, thanked him for choosing Melt as a place to stop on his trip and wished him well in the rest of his ballpark tour. We left Melt and headed downtown with full stomachs and great expectations that were already being met.
Once we got downtown, I took RJ and his three friends that joined him for this leg of the tour, over to the ballpark where we met Erin Parker who works for the Indians. We got to go into the ballpark at 4 o’clock, two hours before anyone else gets let into the park. The next thing we knew, we were on the field, watching the Tribe warm up and get ready to take batting practice. We watched from behind home plate as, one by one, the Indians’ players started trickling onto the field, limbering up to prepare for the night’s game.
I spotted Tom Hamilton, the voice of the Indians, and told RJ who he was. After a short conversation with a couple members of the Indians, Hamilton was walking right by us and I got his attention so that he could meet RJ. The two had a wonderful talk and Hamilton thanked RJ for the service he has provided to this country. RJ was also excited to be able to meet someone who has been around the game the way that Hamilton has.
As the Indians were right in the swing of things, another group came out to see batting practice. It was the Lake Erie Monsters hockey team. Their escort was Danielle Cherry, from the Indians, and when I introduced myself to her and told her about RJ, she wanted to make sure that the players from the Monsters knew who this was and let them know about the awesome journey he is taking. After that, the conversations came very quickly! RJ must have told his story about 20 times on Monday and each time he did, it was like he was telling it for the first time.
Once he was done chatting it up with the Monsters, manager Manny Acta and bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. walked by. They came over, talked with RJ for a few minutes and were kind enough to let us get a picture of them with RJ. This same routine happened with Jack Hannahan and Justin Masterson. All of these men could not have been more welcoming and kind to give RJ a moment or two of their time. RJ was loving every minute of his experience.
“I talked to more ball players today, than I could have ever imagined on the entire trip,” RJ said. “It was pretty unbelievable.”
After batting practice came to an end, I took RJ and his friends to Heritage Park. The last time RJ was in Progressive Field for a baseball game was back in 1997, before Heritage Park had been created. He was very excited to see the great monument to Cleveland Indians history. He checked out all of the plaques and I told him the story of Ray Chapman and the way that his death propelled the Indians to their first World Series title.
When we were done taking in Heritage Park, we went out to the Bob Feller statue for a few more pictures. Then, it was time to take a quick walk around the ballpark, check out the team shop and head up to the Cleveland Indians Social Suite which they had given RJ and his friends tickets for so they would have great seats for the game about to take place. Ballpark snacks in hand, we entered the suite where we watched the game unfold before us.
Although the Indians couldn’t supply a win for his trip, he got to meet a ton of people who are important to the Cleveland Indians family like Anne Keegan and Curtis Danburg. It was people like them that really made RJ’s great experience in Cleveland what it was. Without them, we could have never given RJ such great memories.
When the game was over, we walked RJ out of the ballpark and wished him well on the rest of his journey. He has a long way to go. In a few days he will take in a game at the Rogers Centre in Canada and just after that he will celebrate the 100th opening day in Fenway Park history. He’s got an amazing journey ahead of him and you should keep up with it! Follow RJ on Twitter (@baseballdreamin), Facebook (www.facebook.com/baseballdreamin) or on his blog (http://baseballdreamin.blogspot.com) and stay tuned to Did The Tribe Win Last Night? as we will be keeping in touch with RJ throughout his 70+ day adventure.
Photos: Matthew Van Wormer