ARLINGTON — When Kyle Seager hit a grand slam into the stands of Safeco Field in a June 5 Mariners’ game, Stilly Valley Little Leaguer Zac Wilch retrieved the ball and handed it to a toddler who had been knocked over in the shuffle to grab it — an act of kindness that would soon be rewarded.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” said Wilch, who was attending the game as part of a birthday party for friends on his Little League team, the Cardinals, coached by Mark King.
The younger boy had been knocked over by his father, who was rushing to reach the ball, and when Wilch saw the boy crying, he handed it to him and said, “Here you go.”
Wilch said he didn’t think much about what he was doing, it was just natural.
“The ball got hit toward where we were sitting and the dad got the ball, but he dropped it and it went rolling away from him,” said Wilch. “He pushed the kid over to get to the ball, and I picked it up and handed it to the boy.”
Wilch has been a Mariners fan for his whole life and said that he would have kept the ball if the trampling incident had never occurred.
Zac’s mother, Missy Wilch, said she is proud of her son, and his teammates, for being so kindhearted.
“It was the 14th inning and they were thinking about leaving but said, ‘No, I think we should stay just a little longer.’ Then Kyle Seager hit the grand slam and Zac had his sights on that ball,” she said. “The boys all noticed that the little boy was crying and Zac just gave it to him and he stopped crying. I said, ‘That was really nice, why did you do that?’ and he told me, ‘Oh, it just felt right.’”
Austin and Brandon King, twin sons of Coach Mark King who were celebrating their birthday at the game, conferred with Wilch and together they decided to give the toddler the ball.
“We were there for the game, for our boys’ birthday, and a bunch of their friends came with them,” said Mark King. “We sat through the whole game to the 14th inning, and the White Sox had scored five runs, so we thought, ‘Oh well, I guess we can start make our way to the exit.’ One of the boys said he wanted to stay because the Mariners started to get some hits. So I said, ‘I guess we’ll stay.’ They had the bases loaded with one run in already and that’s when Kyle Seager stepped up to the plate. The ball landed right next to them, and it bounced and rolled over by Zac and he picked it up. The boys noticed that the little boy had been knocked down, and said they wanted to give the ball to the boy. And that’s what Zac did. He felt sorry for him because he was crying.”
Wilch and the rest of the Cardinals and Stilly Valley Little League received quite a prize on Wednesday, June 13, when they shut out a team from Mill Creek Little League to win the North Everett Little League’s JKA Tournament. On the same day, the Stilly Valley Knights topped the North Everett Little League VFW team in the final game of the Marysville Strawberry Tournament — the same tournament in which pitcher Nick Mardesich pitched a perfect game. Mardesich and his North Everett Little League VFW team beat the Mill Creek Little League’s Cardinals by a score of 4-0, with Mardesich throwing 63 pitches and 11 strikeouts on June 5 — the same day the Stilly Valley Cardinals nabbed Kyle Seager’s grand slam ball.
“The Cardinals won the JKA Tournament 6-0, and that’s pretty impressive because Mill Creek is a program that has ended up sending a team to the Little League World Series. Mill Creek is pretty serious about their ball,” said Wilch.
“The tournament was great. They were all pretty excited,” said King. “Bob Harns runs that tournament and did a great job, and he is just another example of how to do things right. The whole crew at NELL did a fantastic job and the Stilly people love going to that tournament.”
Cardinals pitcher Andrew Smith led the team to victory.
“All the kids played great, and Andrew Smith had an incredible night pitching with 14 strikeouts in the final,” said King.
The first-place win for the Cardinals, only a week after the boys’ selfless act at the Mariners game, seemed a great way to wrap up their season, but there is still more celebrating to do.
“We are going to be doing a team wrap-up celebration on June 27 at Rhodes River Ranch restaurant,” said Wilch.