Although Zac and I had great respect for how Bo Jackson was trying to help storm survivors, we weren’t as excited about the ride as some others were until we heard that Ken Griffey Jr. was one of the participants.
Many people know that Zac’s favorite team is the Chicago Cubs, but his favorite players of all-time are Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. After I told Zac that Griffey might be riding through Cordova, he pulled a box of his most prized baseball memorabilia out of the closet and filled me in on why Griffey is a “real class act.”
I was also informed in no uncertain terms that Griffey would have been the home run king if he hadn’t had so many injuries, the result of leaving it all out on the field instead of concerning himself with records.
“Man, I’d sure like to meet him,” Zac said. “I wouldn’t even have to have an autograph. Just get close enough to shake his hand and maybe take a picture with him.”
As I drove home the night before Bo Bikes Bama rolled in to Walker County, I sent up a very selfish prayer. I made a vague request for a magic moment involving Zac and Griffey and let God handle the rest if and how He saw fit.
Zac was at work when the ride arrived in Jasper on Thursday, so it was my job to get some good photos of Griffey.
Things got pretty crazy once Jackson and the other cyclists crossed the finish line, and I overlooked Griffey in the crowd at first. Just when I convinced myself that he hadn’t made it and started thinking of ways to break the news to Zac, I found him mingling with fans in a far corner of the parking lot.
I had been told by store officials that the other celebrities would head straight for the bus upon arrival and that they had been advised not to sign autographs. Apparently someone forgot to tell Mr. Griffey the rules because he seemed to have all the time in the world for his local fans, especially kids.
On more than one occasion over the next two days, I would watch him put his big hands on little shaking shoulders and tell the kids to turn a certain way so their parents could get a really good picture of them with him instead of just standing near him.
I was a few feet from him myself with tears in my eyes when I received the call that organizers of Bo Bikes Bama had changed the original route to include a stop at Cordova Elementary School on Friday morning.
Since Zac didn’t have to report to work until 10 a.m., he went to the school with me and brought along Wyatt, whom he dressed in a cute baseball outfit on the off chance that they got to meet the future Hall of Famer.
Again, I was so focused on the activity at the finish line that I didn’t see Griffey at first. When I did, he happened to be standing next to the two loves of my life.
I ran across the parking lot, much to the dismay of the Bo Bikes Bama people I’m sure because they were trying to keep that area clear of everyone except bikers.
I arrived just in time to get a few shots of Zac and Wyatt standing next to Griffey. An awesome friend of mine named Jennifer Smith was able to capture the magic moment when Zac shook hands with one of his baseball heroes.
When I look at that 8X10 hanging in its place of honor on our living room wall, I can’t help but think of the dark days when it looked like the Pig wasn’t going to reopen. My normally happy-go-lucky husband grew so depressed that I worried he would never recover from the loss of not only a job he loved but his second family as well.
But on the one-year-anniversary of the tornado, Ken Griffey Jr. came to Cordova and Zac met him wearing his new work uniform — a Piggly Wiggly polo.
Our family was far from the only one that was touched by Bo Bikes Bama.
Bo Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr. and the rest of their famous friends lifted the spirits of local storm survivors on what could have been an unbearably painful day.
Instead of the silence and sadness that most of us expected, the streets of Cordova were filled with cheers on April 27, 2012.
Who could have guessed that a charity bike ride could put a smile on the faces of so many people who lost homes and loved ones in those terrible tornadoes a year ago?
Apparently Bo knew.