Tim Simpson, a long-time employee at The Gazette and former member of the Sports department, is battling terminal cancer. Simpson, whose 40-year newspaper career began at the Windsor Star and ended when he took a buyout from The Gazette last year, is a lifelong Detroit Tigers fan. This is a thank-you letter he wrote recently to Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski after attending a game in June as a special guest at Comerica Park.
Dear Mr. Dombrowski,
This is to thank you, again, for doing such nice things for me.
Last winter, my friend Michael Farber asked you to arrange an autographed baseball from Justin Verlander. In March, the parcel arrived. It was a great gift for a lifelong Tigers fan who is dying of cancer.
I wrote a thank-you letter for that and, with the help of countless people, it was published in The Gazette here in Montreal, the Windsor Star and the Detroit Free Press. There were lots of emails and comments about the letter. I cried so much reading about how it offered hope to those in similar circumstances. The real reward of the efforts.
You wrote a nice letter back, telling me to get in touch with your staff the next time I was in Windsor.
Wed like to do something special for you, it said on the letter.
Something special for me, anyway, is something like free tickets to a game. Good seats, of course. Maybe even a parking pass.
After trial and error, it was arranged that I would attend a game. The original plan was for a game in late July.
But life got in the way.
The results of the CT scan I had in April were not good. My first round of chemotherapy was an epic fail. The tumours lung, liver, esophagus and bones are aggressive. They not only resisted the chemo, they got worse.
The trip to Windsor had to be sooner rather than later. Some family and friends to see before it got to the point where I cant travel any more. And one more baseball game. I really wanted to see one more baseball game. True baseball fans understand.
After corresponding with the Tigers staff, we went to Comerica Park on June 17. Seven of us: my Mom, my sister Terry, Aunt Ila and Uncle Bernie and their grandson Michael, and my oldest and best friend Dave. As I told others, to say you did something special for me is like saying the sun is a little bright.
We gathered at the administrative offices at Comerica Park. We were there to meet public-relations honcho Donna Bernardo. She and her assistant/intern Courtney treated all of us like royalty.
We were taken to the field for batting practice. Then Donna explained the rules to us: stay between the barriers, do not walk on the field grass (seriously!), don't go over and start talking to players, and don't take any bats and balls.
Too late, Donna. I got a ball! And no. You cannot have it back.
Not long after that, I finally got to meet you, Mr. Dombrowski. Again, I apologize for crying when I met you. Youre the one who arranged to get the baseball from Verlander. And youre the one who was responsible for all that was happening that day. In my condition, I get quite emotional. Please don't think all us Canadians are wusses.
It was really nice talking to you for as long as we did talk. Talking baseball, of course. About an effort to bring MLB back here to Montreal. About baseball parks. About people who cover the sport. About my old business and your current business. And I gotta tell you: I don't think I could afford the taxes on the suit you were wearing.
Shortly after you left, Miguel Cabrera came over to meet us all. It was one of the few times I can remember where I was at a loss for words. Hes huge! A monster! He smiled and shook everybody's hand and said he was pleased to meet us. He autographed my hat. He even posed for a picture with me, despite my repeated refusals to give him free batting tips.
Torii Hunter came over to meet us next. It was like running into an old friend. He was smiling, laughing and joking around.
They just cant get you out, can they? I kept saying to him.
He had hit career home run No. 300 a couple of days before. Hes a Christmas Day kind of guy. Every day for him is Christmas Day.
Then Donna pulled another bit of magic out of her hat. I looked up at the main scoreboard, and there was a huge welcome message:
The Detroit Tigers welcome Tim Simpson to Comerica Park.
I don't know that I can describe the feeling of seeing my name up in lights like that. I remember thinking to myself that its all too much.
Now its getting late, its hot, and Im getting hungry. Donna asked me if I could last until the end of BP. She scrounged a chair for me and got a bottle of water. She said BP would be over soon.
I was about to call it quits when Donna called me over to follow her. The players were all coming off the field. Donna and I were standing alone, away from all the others, when I looked up and saw Justin Verlander coming toward us. It just cant be, I thought. Hes going to stop and talk to us!
When he got close enough, he smiled and stuck out his hand and said: Good luck with what youre going through.
The tears started to flow. And I just didn't care.
We talked very briefly. I joked with him a bit. He autographed my hat, and posed for pictures.
Back up to main concourse. Donna gave us our seat tickets and vouchers for hotdogs and a drink. Our seats were excellent, of course.
Two old men sitting next to us. It was obvious they had seen many games at Tiger Stadium, too. Maybe even Bennett Park. We chatted a bit. The game had started. Cabrera is coming to bat. Hunter is on first. I told the old men that I had just been talking to Miggy, and he said he would hit two home runs in this game. They smile their toothless smiles, roll their eyes, and nod their heads. And the next pitch to Miggy lands in the seats in right field.
Max Scherzer won his 10th game that night. Still no losses. The Tigers won 5-1.
For a brief time, I was in my Field of Dreams. I was given a shopping bag of souvenirs from Tiger Stadium and Comerica Park.
So please pass along my thanks to your staff, Mr. Dombrowski. Your executive assistant Marty Lyon, Donna Bernardo and her assistant Courtney. All of them treated us well.
And thanks again to you, Mr. Dombrowski.
For a few hours, my cancer wasn't there. Nothing bad was there. I was at a Tigers game. All was right with the world.
All the Best,
P.S. Please let Mr. Ilitch know he owns a class organization. I guess he knows that already.