A great weekend spent celebrating Jonathan Wilson and Brian Bassler.
TORRINGTON: As we celebrated two special graduates this weekend, one who I’ve known for nearly a dozen years, the other just under a year, I couldn’t help but feel a little tinge of sadness.
My wife Deb and I attended the graduation party of Jonathan Wilson and Alexa Sanson in Thomaston on Saturday before heading to Hartford and Dunkin Donuts Park to celebrate with Brian Bassler as he threw out the first pitch at the Yard Goats game.
Bassler is off to Hawaii in about a week, thanks to the kindness of the Make A Wish Foundation and Sunday was his day at the ball park.
Jonathan has been a part of the sports scene in Thomaston and in our family circle since I first met him when he got to stay up late one summer night when he filled in as the bat boy at a Torrington Twisters game.
He’s gone on to have a tremendous career as a Golden Bear, first as a member of the legendary “Cave” at Thomaston High School and later as a member of three different teams for the Bears.
I have called him “Rock Star” for as long as I can remember, less in the last few years as he grew into a young man; didn’t want to embarrass him around his friends, but he never stopped being that to me.
The son of a sports writing father and an athletic mother who coached him on the hardwood during his early years of playing basketball, Jonathan embraced being from Thomaston, he embodied what it meant to have pride in your home town.
He’s off to attend college at Eastern Connecticut this fall where he will get a terrific education and play baseball but will also be close enough to stop back at a place that he made better by him being part of it.
As we hung out with friends on a cool summer evening (considering the previous week, it was a blessing, temperature wise) and watched as teammates and friends came and went during the evening get together, it felt like an era was coming to an end.
Was Jonathan really all grown up and moving on?
Where did that time go?
On Sunday, we made our way up to Hartford to watch Brian throw out the first pitch in front of a group of friends from Torrington High School and Northwestern Regional in Winsted along with his parents, Pat and Joe.
Make-A-Wish had secured a suite that fit 27 people and it helped throw a great celebration that a year earlier may not have seemed possible.
It was just about this time last year that Brian had been diagnosed with Burkitt’s Leukemia and began a journey that had to be witnessed to be believed.
I first met Brian at a benefit dinner held at the Friendship Baptist Church in Litchfield that drew over 300 people who came together to show the Bassler family that they were by no means alone.
It was at that dinner that I was privileged enough to meet a family that had gone through a health scare like this once before.
Joe Bassler had battled cancer back when Brian was just two years old and had just gotten the all clear earlier in the year before the news of Brian’s condition came to light.
The energy and love in that church that night got me hooked on the family and determined to watch them come through this to a happy ending which doesn’t always happen but in this case, it certainly did.
Brian took the field with 28 other folks (the Yard Goats do a great job of involving their fans on the field) and followed former MLB star Rob Dibble to the mound as the final first pitch and threw a perfect strike.
I have to confess though, I didn’t see were the ball went, I was too busy cheering the young man known as B-Bass to his closest friends.
His mix of athletes and stage performers in attendance spoke volumes to why he is the type of young man he is.
He was surrounded by those who had made sure they had gone to the hospital to visit him while he was undergoing his treatments. He was surrounded by love.
The Yard Goats contributed to the great day with a 4-1 win and everyone who left that suite had to feel great about being able to hang out with this healthy young man.
After Hawaii, Brian will prepare for his next adventure at Tampa University this fall.
An amazing 24-hours for Deb and I as we got to say thanks and good luck to a couple of very special young men who we have had the privilege to get to know.
Can’t wait to report back on how these two do in their next adventure.
If their history shows us anything, it will be nothing short of remarkable.