By: Summer Serrano
In Aug of 2015 we got to have a wonderful baseball experience. My Great Great Uncle Raymond Chavez is the oldest Pearl Harbor survivor, he was 103 at the time. he served on the USS Condor and their mine sweeper was the first to see a periscope the morning of December 7, 1941. The San Diego Padres honor our military every Sunday and on this particular Sunday, they honored my uncle and a couple of Medal of Honor recipients. Uncle Ray was invited to attend the game and throw out the first pitch. What was so cool was neither he, nor his daughter had ever been to a baseball game in their lives. We gathered 40 of our family to attend the game and to be uncle’s cheering squad. Even the players came out of the dugout to thank him for his service.
Ray had never thrown a baseball before but luckily he goes to the gym 2-3 time a week and he has a wonderful trainer who taught him how to throw by throwing a tennis ball into a trampoline. He worked with him for a few weeks prior to the game. Sean even got to go on the field to assist Uncle Ray as he threw the pitch. The one thing we didn’t count on was him not being able to see the catcher. Uncle wound up and went to throw and Sean realized he was looking at the wrong spot so he stopped. He wound up again and stopped again. The crowd thought he was just taking his time enjoying the moment and they applauded louder and louder, creating a standing ovation for him. The third time was a charm and he threw the ball to the catcher. The crowd went wild and my eyes filled with tears, they still still do as I tell the story.
Five of us, Ray, his daughter (who is his full time caregiver), my mom, my grandma and i were then escorted upstairs to the owners box. Now mind you, Grandma is Uncle’s niece at 94. In the suite stood the Medal of Honor recipients too. These gentlemen came up to congratulate my uncle on the first pitch but more importantly they shared with him a very special moment. One of them shook my uncle’s hand and in slipped him a Medal of Honor coin. My Uncle Ray’s eyes filled with tears at the honor and he never said a word, I only know this because I witnessed it, nothing was said between them. My Uncle Ray, his daughter and our whole family enjoyed the game. Ray was also made fan of the game but I know that meeting those two men meant more to him than any game. They treated Ray like a superstar that day and we thank the San Diego Padres for this opportunity.
Side note: We almost lost Ray at 101, he has fallen and lost his zest for life. His daughter saw a gym where they were taking care of a 100 year old woman, so she called and made arrangements for him to go. At first he wasn’t interested but his competitive spirit took over and he started enjoying it, trying to do an extra reps or and extra ten seconds to better his time every time. He put on 20 lbs of muscle and looks better now at 105 years young. It is never too late to do something good for yourself!