I reluctantly left the players behind and went to our table at around 6:45. Our table was at the front, but all the way to the right, so it was hard to see. There were 2 big screens on the sides of the room, though, and our table was in front of one of these screens.
I took my seat between TR and Annette Leslie, trying to regain my bearings after meeting a bajillion of my idols mere minutes before. As the resident “fat girl” (don’t worry, I say this with love), it was my duty to first notice the individual servings of chocolate cheesecake with raspberries located at everybody’s place setting.
I immediately elbowed TR. “Ooh, that looks good!” I said, my eyes wide. He laughed.
Annette was obviously worried about her speech, and she kept going over her notes and fidgeting. I am always the “fixer” among my friends and family, so I started trying to help Annette feel more relaxed by encouraging her and patting her arm and smiling at her. Focusing on her helped me deal with my nerves.
I grabbed my purse to get some Burt’s Bees lip balm (because I’m seriously addicted), and I thought to check my phone. It was a good thing that I thought about it, because my brother Matt had called me, just to make sure I made it to the hotel safely. I told you guys he was a good brother!
Dave Barnett and his wife
Dave Barnett and his wife were the first to our table, and Eleno Ornelas and his guest were next. Dave does the radio program with Eric Nadel most of the time, but he sits in for Josh Lewin on the television side occasionally too. And Eleno broadcasts the Rangers’ games in Spanish.
Eleno Ornelas and guest
Next Josh Lewin came over to say hi to Dave Barnett, and TR asked him if he’d met me yet. “Yeah,” he said, “I met her when she was standing with the other
Katie.” Meaning Katie Hamilton, of course. “And the other Josh,” I said. He smiled and nodded.
Josh Lewin (left) and Richard Durrett
The last to join our table was Richard Durrett, from ESPN Dallas. I just like him. He’s always really nice, and I really enjoy the way he writes. He always make me forget I’m reading a story, and I’m just in
the story. So bravo, Richard.
Anyway, Eric Nadel was the night’s emcee, so he started us off with a welcome and explained that we were going to have dinner first before the awards ceremony. Everybody seems to want to know what we had to eat, so I made sure to include all the details.
Josh Lewin started passing a gravy boat around our table that was filled with a salad dressing that tasted very similar to Ranch, but it wasn’t exactly Ranch. I don’t know what it was, but it was good. The salad was topped with 2 spears of asparagus that were criss-crossed, and they were good too. They weren’t quite raw; I could tell that they had been cooked, but they were still really crisp. Dude, I sound like a food critic!
After the salad came the main course, which was a pecan-crusted chicken breast accompanied by some kind of sauce. It came with mashed potatoes that had been put in one of those bags like the cake decorators use and was squeezed out to make a cute little decorative blob. The mashed potatoes were orange, but they didn’t taste like they had any flavoring. So maybe it was just food coloring.
There were also about half a dozen green beans and a mid-sized carrot wrapped in a thin slice of cucumber. It looked really pretty, but when I tried to cut the green beans with my fork, they wouldn’t cut. I believe that if you have to have a knife to eat your cooked vegetables, it’s probably a good idea to steer clear. So that’s what I did.
And the chocolate cheesecake was divine. TR finished his meal before I did, and he glanced over at me and said, “You can eat your dessert now.” “I know,” I said, “I’m excited!” He just smiled at me, rolled his eyes, and shook his head.
When we were still eating the salad, I noticed Jarrod Saltalamacchia had come over to our table to say hi to Josh Lewin. I elbowed TR again. “Hey, that’s Salty!” I breathed, as if he were a wild animal and if I spoke to loudly I might spook him. “Yeah,” TR said, “you want to meet him? Hey Jarrod!”
He spun around, saw TR, and headed toward us. “I want you to meet my friend Katie,” TR said. Salty bent over his 6’4″ frame and stuck his hand out, his head about a foot from mine. “Hi,” I said shyly, glancing up at his mop of curly hair. “Can I just…?” I asked, inching my hand towards the top of his head. “Sure,” he said, ducking his head down so I could pat his hair. And it was awesome!
I had noticed when I saw him earlier that his hair was quite a bit longer than usual, and it’s really curly, so he had kind of a ‘fro going on. “It’s crazy; I need to cut it,” he said, grinning. “No, it’s great!” I said, all the while thinking: Dude, I just patted Salty’s head! What the heck?!
Craig and Annette Leslie
While we ate dinner, I talked to Annette. TR had told me that Annette and Craig were the parents of Carson Leslie, who had recently died of leukemia. “So tell me about Carson,” I said. Annette said that Carson was diagnosed when he was 14, and that he had been fighting for 3 years before he finally lost his battle 2 1/2 weeks ago.
I was horror-stricken. Two and half weeks ago? I don’t know how she was able to go out in public. But she was so strong! When she talked about Carson, a feeling of calm would come over her face and she would smile with her eyes.
“Carson met Michael Young at a charity golf event for Wipe Out Kids Cancer,” she said, and they became good friends. Three weeks ago, Michael came over to their house to spend time with Carson. She said they spent an hour huddled together on the couch trying to figure out how to sync their iPhones together to play some kind of game. “They kept working on it, but they couldn’t figure it out,” she said. “Oh, it’s so great that he came over to visit right before Carson passed!” I said, and she agreed.
She then told me that Carson had published a book right before he died called “Carry Me.” I am so excited to read this book!! You can go to http://www.carrymecarson.com/ to order it. So go do it. Now. I’ll wait.
After we had all finished our dessert and were waiting for the ceremony to start, Annette and Craig said they were going to check out the silent auction that was just outside. “Ooh, I haven’t seen it yet! I’ll go with you!” I said.
They were selling Rangers’ t-shirts at a table outside the banquet room, as well as several items up for auction. There were Rangers autographed pictures and memorabilia, as well as a few a few Cowboys items and other random stuff. As I was looking over the items, Annette came up to me and asked if I wanted to borrow her wrap. “I’m wearing this sweater already,” she explained, “so I don’t really need it.”
“Thank you, yes, I would LOVE to borrow this!” I said, amazed by her generosity. Some of my friends had offered to let me borrow wraps or pashminas to wear to the banquet, but I had turned them down, thinking it was just something else for me to potentially lose. In the half hour that I had been at the banquet, though, I had started to feel self-conscious because my dress was sleeveless and I was feeling kind of exposed. It was also a bit cooler in the banquet room than I had expected, so I had started wishing I had brought a wrap for the warmth. I don’t know how she read my mind, but she did, and I really appreciated it!
Evan Grant and Michael Young
At some point during the ceremony, Michael Young slipped off stage for a little bit to watch the ceremony on one of the big screens with Evan Grant. As soon as I spotted him, I tapped Annette and pointed, because he wasn’t supposed to know that she was there. She glanced over to where I was pointed, saw Michael, and her eyes got big. She mouthed “Thank you!” to me and immediately turned around so that Michael wouldn’t see her. And she waited for him to leave. And waited. And waited.
Rich Harden, Evan Grant, Michael Young
A few minutes later, Rich Harden joined Michael and Evan. And they still made no move to go back up onstage. So we waited some more. Every so often, Annette would look at me and mouth, “Is he still there?” I would nod and roll my eyes. He finally went back up onstage
They spent some time honoring Jim Reeves, aka “Revo”, who just recently retired from the Fort Worth Star Telegram after many years covering the Rangers. Dave Hanson even took part in his “roast.”
When Eric Nadel called TR Sullivan up to the stage to say a few words about “Revo,” TR started walking towards the stage, but then he turned back to me and smiled and held out his hand in a “stop” gesture. I was confused. Then I heard Eric Nadel say, “And TR has a special guest with him tonight, Katie Brownfield. She is a big Rangers fan and was in a bad car accident 5 years ago…” I don’t even remember everything that he said, I was just thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s talking about me!’ When he finished, I stood up for a second and waved, because I could see everyone looking around and craning their necks trying to figure out who he was talking about. Crazy!!
Michael Young’s Player of the Year Award was the last one given of the evening, and Annette did a fabulous job, just like I knew she would. She gave a moving speech explaining Carson came to know Michael, and how good a friend Michael became to Carson over the years.
Michael Young, looking all humble
My favorite part was the story of how Carson and Michael’s first meeting. At that first charity event, Carson had contributed a painting of pinstripes with the number “2” (representing Derek Jeter) to the charity’s auction. Michael Young and Kevin Millwood got into a bidding war to buy it.
Michael and Annette embrace
Michael won, but Carson painted another one just like it to give Kevin Millwood. So sweet!
Then, Michael went above and beyond. He took the painting to Derek Jeter and had him sign it, then he gave the painting back to Carson the next year. And that painting is still hanging over Carson’s bed in his room.
Okay, this is getting pretty long, so I guess this is as good a place to stop as any. I think Part 3 will be mainly stuff that happened after the banquet ended, but if I remember anything else from the banquet, I might add it in there next time too.