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Close Encounters of the Awesome Kind

It's tough celebrating a kid's birthday on an infamous date – but it helps when the stars align.

I have written that my son was born on . Every year is kind of a battle to block out the sadness and celebrate. Every year, I try to make it a little extra special for him.

This year, we decided to celebrate his birthday by taking the whole family, including my parents, to the Brewers game. In honor of Awareness Day, the Milwaukee affiliate of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network sponsored a pre-game tailgating party and sold tickets as a fundraiser.

We really enjoyed the food and friends at the tailgate party and then entered Miller Park to watch an important game between the Brewers and the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that the Brewers could end up facing in the National League playoffs.

The Phillies came into Milwaukee leading the National League and had won six straight games, including three in a row over the Brewers. The Brewers took a one-run lead in the second inning. The game stayed close, but the Phillies took the lead with two runs in the seventh inning.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo pitched a terrific game and kept the Brewers in the game. In the bottom of the seventh inning, Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan hit consecutive doubles to tie the game. Then Ryan Braun hit a clutch single to right field, when he had two strikes on him, and the Brewers took a 3-2 lead.

Francisco Rodriguez came in and pitched a scoreless eighth and John Axford a scoreless ninth inning and the Brewers had a crucial win.

The day before, I had read on Twitter that John Axford would be appearing and signing autographs at Ryan Braun’s restaurant, Graffito, in the Third Ward. We decided to go there for dinner and hopefully obtain an autograph for my son.

I was able to make a reservation through Twitter, and we piled into my big truck for the trip downtown. When we arrived, we were offered seats on the patio outside, which I declined because we had all had enough sun for the day – it was a hot one!

That turned out to be a strategic mistake, as John “The Ax Man” Axford spent almost all of his time on the patio visiting with patrons and signing autographs. It appeared that he was very personable and accommodating to the fans.

However, when we finished our meal he still had not been inside and we did not have an autograph for my son. That is where my father took over. He took the three oldest children outside to the patio and was able to have their photograph taken with Axford. The children were very impressed, this having been the first professional baseball player they had ever met.

But the best was yet to come.

As we turned the corner while walking back to our car we almost collided with another ballplayer you might have heard of – Ryan Braun, who along with Prince Fielder should win the Most Valuable Player award this year, in my father’s opinion.

It was a total chance encounter – he was just walking down the street! We asked Ryan for an autograph for the kids, and he also accommodated us by allowing us to take his photograph along with the children.

He could not have been friendlier and did not show any of the “attitude” that many professional athletes that are stars show today. He was a true gentleman. He listened to my son’s stories and was so enthusiastic, responding with, “Awesome!”

Did I mention that he is also gorgeous? Like super gorgeous? And that my mom was swooning and wanted to invite him to dinner for Rosh Hashanah?

At that point, we headed back home to further celebrate my son’s 10th birthday. This will be one he will never forget.

I have to commend the staff at Graffito for going above and beyond to make my son’s birthday special. They bent over backward trying to find a dairy-free dessert for my son, who has a deadly dairy allergy – and they made it work! Truly a class act staff there.

Go Brewers!

Craig October 01, 2011 at 03:01 PM
What an awesome day! Being able to see the Ax Man and Braun all on our son's birthday! Great column again!
Jim Raffel October 03, 2011 at 10:51 PM
I'm actually glad I'm reading this "late" Just spent the whole weekend watching the Brewers take care of business with the Arizona Diamond backs in game 1 and 2 of the NLDS. I might add that your super gorgeous man played a huge role in both games and seemed to hit the ball almost every time he came up to bat. Yep, he seems to be the real deal.
Jim Price October 03, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Yep, Jim, Ryan Braun is the real deal. He's got a swing you could almost compare to Ted Williams', speed on the bases, a great arm, a complete feel for the game, a "let's have fun but no holds barred" attitude on the field and, as we now learn from Genevieve, an equally endearing attitude toward his fans off the field. I'm still trying to imagine being her 10-year-old and meeting him on my birthday – or Gen and Craig's feeling for how special Ryan Braun made their 9/11 boy's day. And, my wife and daughters confirm that he's gorgeous. That, I wouldn't know :)
Chris Sherman October 04, 2011 at 01:36 AM
This is a great article! Very well written and really cool for your kids to experience something like this.

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