Hot dogs, baseball and a kiss to remember

Let me start with this: Happy Birthday, America!

That’s about where the festivities for me end. Unlike most people, I’m not getting the day off. That means no family barbecues, no celebrations, no fireworks and no day of moving mulch at home as my father has made into a family tradition.

While I cannot celebrate the Fourth of July in the stereotypical manner, I will do it in my own way by covering a game of America’s pastime.

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers will host the Williamsport Crosscutters tonight at 7 p.m. at Eastwood Field. I can’t imagine anything more patriotic than that, especially for an individual whose life revolves around sports.

For anyone going to tonight’s game, the Scrappers will do their best to make it feel like a Fourth of July celebration. As it is a Thursday night home game, it’s Buck Night, so tickets, beverages and hot dogs cost $1. Also, after the game, the fireworks will fly over Eastwood Field, meaning this game will be an All-American fair.

Not that I’m going to complain about that, as anything to make it feel like a holiday is fine in my book. I will at least be able to hear the fireworks when I conduct the after-game interviews, and despite spending one year eating German bratwursts, even I will be tempted to partake in the hot dog deal to make it feel like Independence Day.

LAMBERT’S KISS: Irritating as former Pittsburgh Steeler great Jack Lambert was by refusing to talk to the media, he definitely showed compassion and respect to the fans who came out to Eastwood Mall last Saturday.

One story that made a mark came in the form of Pat Sandrella, a 62-year-old Ashtabula native who came down with her husband to get an autograph from the Hall of Fame linebacker.

The aspect of her story that stuck out came from the illnesses from which she suffered. She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1983, and since then, Sandrella’s laundry list of issues increased to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and diabetes, among others.

Because of these illnesses, Sandrella’s confined to a wheelchair to get around, and with Lambert sitting on a stage signing the various Steelers’ memorabilia, she couldn’t get up to talk to Lambert, a man on a team that has helped keep her mind off the pain that has come into her life.

Her love from the Steelers came from her son, who, according to Pat, is the “biggest Steelers fan in the world.” He suggested that his mother get into the Pittsburgh Steelers, and ever since then, she’s been a fan.

This probably made it difficult for Sandrella to sit there while her husband got the autograph from Lambert, but she didn’t know that he was going to come down to her. Not only did she receive an autograph and a hug, she also received a kiss from one of the toughest players to ever play football. She was delighted going away from the stage – it was evident to see in her body language.

It’s one story she’s not likely to forget.