Sizemore takes a hack at Wiffle ball
Center fielder visits winner of 'Backyard Challenge' contest
WESTLAKE, Ohio -- A special visitor was coming on Monday and Bill and Linda Fogle and family were ready.
Linda hung a "Welcome to Fogle's Field" banner from the garage in front of their sky blue two-story home. Three-year-old Tommy made a sign that read, "GRADE SIZEMORES ASUM AT BASBAL." The oldest boy, 8, signed a Little League picture of himself, inscribed "To Grady, from Bobby." And most importantly, Bill cut the grass.
It was a Wiffle ball game that brought Tribe center fielder Grady Sizemore out to the family's Westlake house on Monday. The Fogles were selected from more than 3,500 entrants to host the Direct Energy "Backyard Challenge" with Sizemore.
"This is about the coolest thing in the world," Linda said.
Imagine then how Bobby, Tommy, 6-year-old Eric and some 40 other kids must have felt as Sizemore spent nearly two hours posing for pictures, signing autographs, and of course, playing ball.
Too many kids flooded the mid-sized yard to play an actual game, but everyone got a chance to hit.
This included Sizemore, the game's leadoff man, who whiffed on the first pitch a young boy lobbed him.
One bystander said, "This will screw up his swing."
"It can't get any worse," Sizemore replied with a laugh.
Swinging lightly with one hand, Sizemore's thin yellow bat eventually struck the plastic ball before the Indians star took to the field. There, he pitched to each kid waiting in a line that stretched more than 20 deep.
Bobby, who likes Sizemore more than any other Indians player because "he plays my favorite position in the outfield," lined his idol's first pitch to the tall wooden fence beyond third base for an inside-the-park homer.
Another boy came to the plate with a baseball cap drooped over his eyes.
"Can you see? Can you see?" Sizemore said. "I don't want to blow it by you."
Not so fast. The youngster got a hit, though he had some trouble finding first base.
"I was getting hit hard," Sizemore said, smiling. "It was a rough day."
Ah, he's just kidding. Sizemore said he had as much fun as any other kid out there. In fact, he planned to tell his teammates about his big day on Tuesday.
"I'm just a big kid. I had fun," Sizemore said. "Tomorrow I'll be bragging. I got the better end of this deal."
He also left one family with a day they'll never forget. Think about when Bobby and Eric return to school and the teacher asks the class what they did on their summer vacation.
"I'd like to see somebody top that," Bill said.
Good thing then that Linda decided on a whim one day this spring to enter the contest. Bill still hadn't heard about the contest when his wife called him one midday in July to deliver the winning news.
"I was like 'Grady what?'" Bill said. "I had never seen the commercials. I was completely clueless."
As were his kids, who had a hard time accepting that a big leaguer was coming to their yard.
"It took some prodding, but they finally believed me," Bill said.
Perhaps not until Monday. As Linda said, the dream day "didn't seem like it was real."
"Think back to when you were a kid," said Mike Beck, vice president of sales and marketing for Direct Energy. "This would have been awesome. I'm not a kid anymore and I'm still excited."
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.