By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Sept. 14 — The video has now been viewed around 20 million times online.
Just prior to the top of the ninth in Nats Park, a man reaches over to grab a ball thrown by Nationals’ right fielder Joey Meneses that was clearly intended for Avery Hilliard of Shenandoah.
The man wearing a Nats’ jersey in the right field stands claimed he had as much right to the ball as the 9-year-old who had waited all game to get it.
“He showed no remorse,” Avery’s mom, Gina Hilliard, told Page Valley News. Gina also serves as the “Team Mom” for the 10U Babe Ruth All-Star softball team that was attending the Aug. 30 game against Oakland as guests of the Washington Nationals.
“The response he [gave] was basically…’I bought a ticket just like you did and I deserve that ball as much as anyone else’,” Gina said.
As the Virginia 10U Babe Ruth state champions, the Shenandoah All-Stars were admitted for free and recognized on the field prior to the game as part of Youth Champions Day 2022. The state champion “Team Mom” recorded a video of the incident in the stands, and tweeted it and a message to the Nationals: “@Nationals can you get Joey Meneses to sign a baseball and send it to my daughter?”
The video — and the message — received millions of views online as it got picked up by several online fans sites, as well as multiple media outlets. The Nationals soon responded and noted their disappointment.
“Gina, we are so sorry to hear that your experience that night was negatively impacted,” reads a response to Hilliard from the Nationals. “All of our fans should be able to enjoy the games they go to. We very much appreciate the support from you, your family and the rest of your championship softball team! And congrats on such a great accomplishment!”
“We will send something your way and hope that this can serve as a symbol of a good experience at the park rather than a bad one!” the message continues. “Baseball should be fun, especially at Nats Park.”
On Tuesday, Gina received another message from the Nationals:
“Hi Avery, we have something coming for you”
A photo of an autographed baseball and a card accompanied the tweet, and the message personally penned on the card by Joey Meneses confirms that indeed the ball was intended for the 9-year-old from Shenandoah.
“Avery, I am sorry you didn’t get the ball I threw to you. I wanted to make sure you get one. So I hope this signed game ball makes up for it! Hope to see you at a game soon!
Your friend, Joey”
“We were sitting at dinner when I showed her the post from the Nats,” Gina wrote in a text to PVN. “She is beyond excited and very appreciative of Joey not only sending her a signed ball, but a kind note with it.”
The Team Mom now plans to send one more video to the Nats…when Avery receives her gift.
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