EAGLE MOUNTAIN Mason Taylor, of Eagle Mountain, says he's going to play for the Boston Red Sox one day. He's only 10, so for now it's just daydreaming. But he believes in such things.
So when you ask if he wants to become a third baseman like Mike Lowell, of the Sox, he says proudly, "I am a third baseman."
A Little Leaguer, sure, but a third baseman just the same.
What gives his dream wings is that he has already stood on the grass at Fenway Park on game day and stared down the fabled Green Monster. Sat in the dugout in his Red Sox jersey, chewing gum and bantering with Schilling, Pedroia, Papelbon, Lowell and Ellsbury.
But while dreaming is free, getting there isn't. That's where the story of three kids who lost their father begins. The story of their mom, Traci, who lives for sons Mason, Weston, 9, and Jackson, 4, who is autistic. And how gracious fans and a legendary team helped in the best way they could.
If ever a team knew about dreaming, it would be the Red Sox.
After all, they waited 86 years to make theirs come true.
It's easy to assume most professional athletes are jerks. They're young, rich, famous, gifted, proud. Because of the headline-grabbing antics of loudmouths, troublemakers and lawbreakers, the good deeds tend to get overshadowed.
So you think, yeah, they must all be scum.
Then something happens and you realize they, too, have families and feelings. Like late August, when the Taylor family went to Boston. The trip was to fulfill a promise made by the dad, James Taylor Jr., a St. Marks Hospital emergency nurse who also worked part time on the Arizona helicopter medical staff. Taylor died this summer following a chopper crash while rescuing a man in the Grand Canyon.
Taylor loved his job, his family and the Red Sox. He had committed to one day taking his family to see his favorite team, having visited Fenway as an adult and seen its timeless allure.
When he died July 4, after several days in intensive care, it seemed the trip to Fenway would never happen. Mason said as much at his father's bedside.
But then fate, or perhaps something bigger than fate Red Sox Nation intervened. Taylor's sister, Laurie Brady, posted a letter on a fan forum, asking if someone could help get her nephews to a game. Funeral expenses and a single income had made it unlikely they would ever see the Green Monster in person.
But Sox fan Tom Nardozzi saw the message and quickly offered to buy eight box seats for the Taylors and some relatives. Soon donations were pouring in from Boston and other far-flung locations. JetBlue contributed round-trip plane tickets. A fan shop near Fenway donated jerseys, baseballs and other gear. A restaurant refused to charge them for meals.
Before it was over, the entire trip meals, hotel, transportation, tickets had been covered.
Despite the notion Red Sox fans care more about their team than anything in real life, that apparently isn't true.
That day they cared most about a family that was hurting.
They cared that a father's promise be kept.
The Sox had been briefed beforehand that the Taylors were coming, so when they arrived, the team made it special. Curt Schilling, out with a shoulder injury, handed each child an autographed Red Sox jersey. When Traci asked if Schilling could sign a photo of her husband "because he was part of the trip, too," Schilling humbly asked to keep the picture for himself. A sort of reminder of what real heroes do.
Weston and Mason were named honorary bat boys. The kids toured the field, posed for pictures with the mascot and checked out the batting cage.
Dustin Pedroia, Mason's favorite player, called out, "Hey, there, buddy!" before signing baseballs and the back of the boy's Red Sox shirt.
Others such as Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Lowell and Jacoby Ellsbury dropped by to sign autographs, pose for pictures and chat. Ellsbury put his arms around the boys.
"They were just regular guys who play baseball," said Traci.
Like his dad, Mason is a Red Sox fan for life. He already has baseball cards of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski and other famous Boston players. His room looks like it could be the Red Sox Hall of Fame.
It all should come in handy when he joins the Sox in a decade or so.
For now he wants to go to Florida for spring training. He might just get there, too. Dreams live.
Traci says she'll never be able to repay the Sox or their fans for their kindness.
"I'll never get tired of telling the story, what they did for us," she said. "I'll tell it to anyone who wants to hear."And anyone who wants to dream.
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