Derek’s Day at the Ballpark: Paying it forward in honor of a little boy who loved baseball
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — He was on this Earth for just under 10 years, but even with his passing, Derek Lendosky continues to make others smile.
On a picture perfect day at Miller Park, fans streamed in for a day of Brewers baseball, as the team took on the Toronto Blue Jays.
“The kid loved baseball,” Steve Lendosky says of his late son, Derek.
“He was a stat guy. Every day he’d wake up at six and watch first pitch or quick pitch and call me at work and let me know how my guys did for fantasy baseball. He just loved the game,” Lendosky said.
Just three days before his 10th birthday, Derek Lendosky was killed.
“He fell off the back of my ATV and went through a mower. So he died in my arms,” Lendosky said.
When Derek’s birthday came along, his father says he couldn’t help but think of his son’s love of baseball.
“Jose Bautista was my son’s favorite player. On his birthday I sent a tweet out to him, letting him know that we’d be burying my son two days after that in his Bautista jersey and did not expect anything in return, just a simple tweet,” Lendosky said.
But a tweet wasn’t enough for Bautista. He did much more for the Lendosky family and for Derek, in particular.
“Jose Bautista dedicated the game to him on August 9th of last year, the day we buried him. He jacked one about 417 foot off the left field third deck in Toronto. And it just steamrolled from there,” Lendosky said.
Then, a classmate of Steve Lendosky’s created a Facebook page called “Acts of Kindness for Derek.”
“She decided she wanted to do an act of kindness in his name, since she couldn’t be at the funeral,” Lendosky said.
The page got more than 12,000 “likes” on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Bautista kept family in his thoughts.
“Jose was kind enough to give us the hat that he wore the day that he had dedicated the game — that he had wrote Derek’s name on. This is a boy that he never met before in his life, didn’t know anything about. And he took the time to do something as easy as just saying ‘I’m dedicating the game to him.’ And he created a whole lot of Jose Bautista fans in our small town of Fennimore,” Lendosky said.
By the hundreds, those fans traveled to Miller Park — most of them wearing shirts with “Derek’s Day at the Ballpark” on the front. Others had their Bautista jerseys on.
Troy Larson, a childhood friend of Steve Lendosky’s was among the nearly 500 from Fennimore paying it forward at Miller Park.
“It’s just Derek living through us. It’s been special. When you slow down life a little bit to say ‘this is why we’re here,’ it’s very special,” Larson said.
Larson and others handed out thousands of dollars worth of vouchers to fans.
“They can use for food, for merchandise — anything the kids want here at the ballpark,” Lendosky said.
Paul Smith of Waukesha was on the receiving end of one of the kind acts.
“I was totally shocked. I didn’t know what it was all about. But they’re giving us a donation for their son and that’s awesome. We’re definitely going to pay it forward,” Smith said.
On this day, the Brewers also paid it forward — allowing Lendosky to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Pointing to the sky for Derek, Lendosky delivered a strike.
That’s when the emotion of the day caught up with him.
“I’m ready to cry. That’s about it. It felt good, really good. I hope he saw it,” Lendosky said.
And that wasn’t the final highlight of the day. In the sixth inning, Bautista stepped up to the plate to cap off Derek’s Day at the Ballpark — hitting a home run, and paying it forward in a way only he could.
CLICK HERE to visit the Acts of Kindness for Derek Facebook page.