I remember the first “famous” person I’d ever met like it happened yesterday. When I was about ten years old my parents took my sister and I to Omaha to meet Mark-Paul Gosselaar, aka: Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. My sister and I were obsessed with that show. We would spend hours watching it, taping it so we could watch it again, memorizing every single line and even some dance moves. I like to think we were and are Saved by the Bell connoisseurs. So when “Zack” was going to be in Omaha my parents bit the bullet and battled the traffic to wait in line with two little girls for what seemed like twelve hours.
I remember how excited I was and how he would certainly look at me and say, “Forget Kelly Kapowski, you are the most beautiful girl in the world.” I was so nervous for this life changing experience I was about to endure. My sister and I made our way up to him and our big ideas of who he was going to be were destroyed. Gorgeous “Zach Morris” who is blonde on TV sat in front of us with a dirty baseball cap pulled over his dark hair. He didn’t wear his TV make-up, but instead wore a scowl that let us know he was not thrilled to be in Omaha, Nebraska. It took everything I had not to cry and call him a fraud. He had shattered my little fourth grade dreams.
That day I went home in shell shock. Everything I thought I knew was wrong. He was not the world’s nicest guy who could call a time-out and fix everyone’s problem with a clever scheme. I was still happy I was able to meet him and brag about it for years-and I still do. You guys, I MET ZACK MORRIS! But, it was nothing like I had imagined it would be. He wasn’t Zack Morris. He wasn’t who he was on my favorite show. My good friend television had lied to me for the first of many, many, many times.
Fast forward to a couple years ago. Brian and I took Alex to Kansas City to see Detroit play the Royals. Since we are Husker fans, we got in the gates early and went to watch Detroit take their batting practice. There is a former Husker who currently plays for the Tigers. He also played for the Yankees at one time, but I won’t mention any names. My guys cheered for this player-waved and did all they could to get a simple nod or a smile. This player ignored everyone. Every child or adult who tossed him words of encouragement or accolades was blocked out. He looked past them towards the stands and wouldn’t even wave. It turned my opinion of him on the spot. How hard is it to smile or wave at a crowd who adores you? Again, that jolly looking guy who I had seen on TV many times was not who I imagined.
I had since braced myself on how some people may act when approached for an autograph or conversation. TV doesn’t show you exactly who people are. TV doesn’t show a player, ignoring the children.
Last Saturday we took Alex down to the Kansas City Royals game. We decided to try their early bird special and get in the stadium early to watch our guys take their batting practice. I had told Alex that we would get to see all of his favorite players up close, but they may not be able to sign anything or acknowledge him specifically. I wanted to grab him and say “Listen kid, these guys may ignore you and break your heart-brace yourself!” But my guy, with his glass half full attitude was ready to get an autograph and be asked to play for the Royals after they picked him out of the crowd. I’m his mom and I know how he thinks. He dreams big just like me. It’s a heartbreaking trait to inherit, I know.
We watched our favorites like Moose, Hos and Salvy take their batting practice. We cheered for them along with about two hundred other people. As Salvy walked into the dugout he stopped to sign some autographs. My little fanatic yelled and yelled at his larger than life hero. After about three autographs Salvy looked at Alex and pointed. Alex froze, then ever so gently tossed his ball over to him. Salvy smiled, signed his ball and tossed it back to Alex. That’s all folks. Thirty seconds taken out of his day to make one little boy and his mama extremely happy. Salvy smiled, waved and skipped away after taking the time to look us all in the face-as if to say “I see you here and I appreciate it.”
Alex now has a favorite Royals player and a story he will carry for the rest of his life. He will never forget that day at the ballpark. He may forget the score (good) and who they played, but he will never forget Salvador Perez and how he was exactly who he was on television. Sometimes-though it may be rare, those stars who shine a bit brighter than most of us are exactly who you want them to be-and that makes me happy. TV and I can be friends again.