When young Houston Astros fan Carson Riley reached down from his seat in right field of Minute Maid Park and tried to catch a Carlos Correa homer in his glove during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, people were quick to make Jeffrey Maier comparisons.
They were both 12-year-olds, both involved in a New York Yankees playoff game. But as we’re learning now, Riley’s story might be less like that of Jeffrey Maier and more like “Angels in the Outfield.”
The Houston Chronicle’s Matt Young published a riveting tale Tuesday that digs deeper into Riley’s story including why his family was at Saturday’s ALCS Game 2 and how the experience has profoundly affected Carson’s parents. The big reveal is this: Carson’s older brother, Cade, died a month ago in an ATV accident near the family’s home in Liberty Hill, which is about three hours from Houston.
Mike and Amanda Riley weren’t originally planning to attend the games, according to the Houston Chronicle. They’d been holed up at home mourning 15-year-old Cade’s death when Mike proposed they take a weekend trip to Houston to take their minds off the sadness at home.
From there, Amanda Riley says she couldn’t escape things that reminded her of older son, including this amazing coincidence as the family found its seats for Game 2:
When they were walking to their front-row seats there were two young boys who appeared to be brothers standing near the Rileys’ seats. They both had baseball hats with their names stitched on the side. Cade. Carson. It was a take-your-breath-away moment. It stopped the family in their tracks enough that Amanda pulled out her camera and snapped a picture.
“I just started crying,” Amanda said. “What are the odds? Two boys standing right where we’re supposed to be sitting. Side-by-side. Cade and Carson. Cade was the reason we were there. We were trying to get away. It was a good feeling, but it made me miss Cade a lot.”
Whether you believe in signs from the afterlife, spirits or just regular ol’ coincidence might change how that story impacts you. But for the Rileys, the signs kept coming. Take this passage from their Game 1 experience, via The Chronicle:
When the Yankees were up to bat, directly in front of the Rileys’ seats stood third-base coach Joe Espada, who wears No. 53 on the back of his jersey. That’s the same number Cade wore for the Liberty Hill High School football team. Then, when the Astros needed five big outs, the Astros turned to closer Ken Giles, who after making the final batter whiff, banged his fist against his chest three times, then turned his back to the third-base side of the stadium to reveal his jersey number – 53.
Mike Riley was never one to believe in signs from beyond, but then Correa’s homer flew right to his younger son. Carson didn’t catch the ball on the fly, but it hit off his glove, bounced into his mom’s lap and then hit his dad’s shoe. That was enough to make Mike think something special was happening to his family:
“I think at first – even up until (Sunday) – I was kind of writing it all off, honestly,” Mike said. “But I’ve watched that play at least 20 times today, and that ball came straight toward Carson. If you drew a string on the path that ball took, I promise you that ball did not move three or four feet from the path where Carson was standing. That ball went straight to him. We’ve hung on to our faith through all of this, and we think that God has a much bigger plan for Cade even after death. As hard as this is to say or even explain – and I wish I had a scientific answer for you or something better – but we just feel like this is still part of God’s plan.”
The entire story is worth a read, and we suggest you do. And as you do, remember that baseball is different things to different people. The Astros and the Yankees are vying this week for a chance to play in the World Series. Diehard fans will have their emotions invested in that.
But for other fans, sometimes the game brings experiences that are bigger than even the World Series. The Rileys seem to have found theirs.
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