Grab a tissue before reading this: A young Astros fan got a home run ball, and this is why it's so special

I love baseball, even though my beloved Texas Rangers didn't make the playoffs this season.

As a Texas fan, I'm finding it especially difficult to root for either team in the American League Championship Series. That best-of-seven series, tied 2-2 heading into today's Game 5, pits the Evil Empire (the New York Yankees) vs. the Rangers' in-state rival (the Houston Astros). I don't suppose there's any way that both teams could lose, is there?

But seriously, folks ...

My friend David, a minister in Houston, alerted me to a tear-jerking feature story about a young Astros fan who ended up with a home run ball. This story almost makes me want to root for Houston. Almost.

The piece ran at the top of the Houston Chronicle's front page today. And yes, there's a religion angle. More on that in a moment.

"I don't know if you saw this, but it brought me to tears in public when I read it," David said. "Great writing."

Although I subscribe to the Chronicle, I hadn't read it yet today, so I appreciated my friend calling my attention to this story.

The lede:

When Amanda Riley arrived at Minute Maid Park for Game 1 of the Astros-Yankees American League Championship Series, she couldn't contain her tears.
"We walk in, and all I'm seeing are families and dads holding their sons up," Riley said. "The whole time all I could think about was that we're there as a family, too, but we're missing one."
Four weeks earlier, 15-year-old Cade Riley — Amanda and Mike Riley's oldest son — died in an all-terrain vehicle accident on a trail near the family's home in Liberty Hill.
Since then, Amanda, Mike and their son Carson had trouble finding the motivation to leave the house as a family.
Mike knew it was time, and he made a decision that put his family directly in the path of a crucial Carlos Correa home run and made their youngest son the center of media attention and the object of Astros players' affection. 

Keep reading, and the Chronicle offers relevant details on how the family ended up at two ALCS games in Houston last week — and on the providential circumstances that seemed to surround their time at Minute Maid Park. No, the newspaper never uses the phrase "providential circumstances," but the family's quotes make no doubt that they see them as such.

A crucial section of the story:

When Correa ripped a line drive to right, Carson rose to his feet and stuck out his glove as Judge raced toward him. The ball glanced off Carson's glove and rolled into Amanda's lap and landed at Mike's feet.
Judge looked up at Carson and nodded at him as if to assure him that he did nothing wrong, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi asked for the play to be reviewed to see if Carson had reached over the wall and interfered with the play. After review, the ruling on the field stood - home run and a 1-0 Astros lead. All that was left was a crush of media reporters rushing to the front row of Section 152 to interview the ballpark's newest celebrity.
Another sign, Amanda insists.
"Just the way the ball physically touched each one of us," Amanda said. "It hit Carson's glove, rolled around in my lap, and then hit Mike's feet. And, the fact that it was Aaron Judge. Cade and Carson both loved baseball, and they were competitive with each other. They both had their players, and they would argue over whose player was better. Cade really liked Aaron Judge, and that was one of his players he always argued was the best."
Mike is the more stoic parent. He went back to his job as an electrical contractor a week after Cade's death, but now back at his home in Liberty Hill days after the Astros trip, even he can't get over the apparent signs from their lost son the entire weekend.
"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."

A part of God's plan? Remember that religion angle I referenced earlier? There you go.

But if you're interested in any more details on the family's faith, you'll be disappointed. The Chronicle fails to engage the obvious followup questions: What is the family's faith? And what role has it played in how they've dealt with this tragedy?

"Yes, great story!" I replied to my friend after reading the piece. "Did you find yourself wanting to know any more about the family's faith or is that just me applying a GetReligion lens to everything?"

"Good point," David replied. "They did mention God's plan but not anything more."

Indeed.

With that caveat, here's my advice: Take the time to read this story. But be sure to grab a tissue before you do.

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