A few of the baseballs found at a last-chance Goodwill store.

It turns out, Owen is a nice kid who does like baseball but, most importantly, he loved his Papa.

Last week, I wrote about a trip to the last-chance Goodwill store, the place where items go that are too ragged or too off-beat for the regular Goodwill store. There I discovered a cache of baseballs, 25 or so, with the name “Owen” written on them. If you missed that column and would like to read it, you can Google it or dig through the recycling and find that particular copy of the newspaper while the rest of us wait for you to catch up…

…there. Now, we’re all on the same page

I speculated on who Owen might be and how those baseballs got there and the outside chance that a Disney executive would read my story about this unusual find and turn it into the next big animated blockbuster, earning me millions of dollars. The original title was “The Mystery of Owen’s Baseballs” but I settled on “Owen and the Magic Baseballs,” which sounds like an animated blockbuster to me.

As of this writing, I have not heard from a Disney executive but I have heard from Owen’s mom. When I realized Owen’s mom was contacting me, I hoped it was not about a restraining order to stay at least 500 feet away from her family.

It was not.

Instead, it was wonderful and, like the baseballs in my story, a bit magical. Owen’s mom, Andrea, read my column in the Hickory Daily Record, which also published the photo of the baseballs I found with Owen’s name on them. Here’s what she wrote on Facebook and sent in a message to me:

(begin ital) These baseballs in your article belonged to my son, Owen. Here is the story. (Although your idea for the story sounds amazing.)

Baseball is something that our family has always loved. When Owen was old enough, his Papa (my dad) began teaching him the sport. Through the years, Owen’s love for baseball grew which made Papa the happiest person on earth. A couple years ago, my dad started building a small forever home for my mom during the week, while still taking Owen to practice throughout the week and attending travel ball tournaments on the weekends. The house will be ready at the end of this month, so we are frantically downsizing due to moving day approaching.

I asked Owen if he wanted to keep these baseballs, and since he has many buckets of baseballs currently, he decided that we should give them away so another child could play.

Fast forward to today. This article was published 2 months after my dad passed away unexpectedly, and the day after we celebrated Owen’s 14th birthday.

Without even knowing it, you sent Owen a birthday gift from Heaven. A sweet memory attached with a little laughter. Exactly what Papa would have wanted. Thank you. (end ital)

Andrea included photos of a young Owen in his uniform with his Papa knelt down beside him and another more recent photo where the now teenage ballplayer is just about to overtake Papa in height.

Some of Andrea’s friends said they believed there was some divine intervention at work here.

“A huge God Wink!!! Tears!! It is amazing how God works to let us know we are not forgotten!!” wrote Pat.

“Scott Hollifield you not only wrote a story-you touched a family!! I feel God placed you there & used you to reach them during this special bittersweet day!” wrote Rachel.

I’m not much of a church-going man, but I have been known to shed a tear or two when listening to the Stanley Brothers sing “Angel Band.” If the Big Man Upstairs was working through me, he must be pretty far down on his list but, as we’ve been told, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

I’m grateful to have had an opportunity spread some joy, whether I knew it or not. Happy birthday to Owen and God bless you, Papa.

OK, Disney executive, we’re waiting.

Scott Hollifield is editor and general manager of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C.

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