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Thanks to Rick and the magicians at All Pro Automotive, the Bryan Family Millennium Falcon was once again ready to fly. Just in time.

Almost Dr. Wapp (Day#216) extended an invitation for me to return to Conway High School (Day #263) for a special presentation.

“The Hamels Foundation is donating 40 pair of cleats for our baseball and softball teams.”

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Founded by Cole and Heidi Hamels and located in downtown Springfield, The Hamels Foundation “enriches the lives of children around the world through the power of education.” Baseball camps and equipment donations are just one of the ways the foundation makes an impact throughout southwest Missouri.

On the way out of town, I connected with Justin (Day #332). I gave him my 1990 Wilson glove in hopes he could breathe some new life into it.

“This will be the third George Brett model I’ve worked on. I’ll give it my best shot.”

Fingers crossed.

Through thick, just-above-freezing fog, I made the trip back to Conway and met Coach Bilyeu.

Coach Bilyeu has been the head coach of the baseball team for 13 years. A catcher, he graduated from Conway in 2000 and was part of the Class 2A District 11 Baseball Championship teams in 1997 and 2000. I saw his name on the banners hanging in the gym. This past fall, Coach Bilyeu won his 400th game.

Against Morrisonville.

On the other day I went to Conway High School to play catch.

A Cardinals fan, Coach Bilyeu loves how baseball teaches patience — “especially as a coach” — and encourages a good work ethic.

“It’s good to have something you’re passionate about, something you’re willing to put in the hard work for in order to succeed.”

While singers prepared for the choir program, Coach Bilyeu and I played catch in the gym that still reminds me of the one featured in the movie Hoosiers. Those in PE class watched while the ball popped and echoed in our mitts.

After catch, I was introduced to Kathy Greene, the Chief Operations Officer for the Hamels Foundation and Heidi’s mom.

“We decided not to do any baseball clinics this year, so we contacted rural schools in the area and offered to make an equipment donation to their programs. We asked Conway because Heidi attended kindergarten here. We also reached out to Galena, Niangua, and Forsyth and supplied their teams with new shoes, thanks to an endorsement and sponsorship from New Balance.”

I visited with players from the team as they unwrapped the gorgeous cleats and tried them on.

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“How many days left?” Almost Dr. Wapp asked.

“Only 17.”

“So, what are you going to do next year?”

Leave it to the almost doctor to ask the hard question.