It's hard to believe I'm writing this. My cousin Steve was transferred to Hospice this morning. He was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma about 18 months ago and despite a hard-fought battle he has been losing ground rapidly the past few weeks.
Steve is my age, 41, and like me a die-hard Reds and Bengals fans. I have fond and vivid memories of attending games with him, including Pete's #4192 and many years of Spring Training games at Al Lopez Field in Tampa. Steve was also a ball boy for the Reds in 1988, the year the All Star game was played in Cincinnati. It was fun to see him on the field with the best of the best.
He told some great stories about that season as a ball boy. He always dreaded when Paul O'Neill struck out to end an inning, because it was Steve's job to warm up the right fielder between innings. Precious Paul always had a little extra mustard on the ball when he was fuming.
Steve was treated exceptionally well by the players and staff. Barry Larkin stood out as one of the kindest and most generous of the players. In fact, he was able to get one of Larkin's gloves for me to use during a high school playoff game. It was the softest, most perfect glove I ever used and I'll never forget how cool it felt to be playing shortstop with Barry Freakin' Larkin's glove. I am forever grateful to Steve for making that memory happen.
Some of you may know Steve. He's a Sycamore grad of 1989 and spent most of his professional career in the restaurant biz. His father has been a visible figure with the Reds for more than 30 years, leading hundreds of trips with the Red Rooters and Rosie Reds during his days with Barney Rapp Travel and now Provident Travel. His family is Cincinnati Reds through and through, and something as simple as Reds baseball has provided a much-needed lift for Steve lately in what otherwise has been a very rough patch.
This is a very difficult stretch for Steve's immediate family, and his health is deteriorating by the hour. If you believe in prayer, I simply ask that you pray for peace, comfort, and maybe even a miracle. He would have done the same for me.