Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

A stranger stole a young Twins fan’s signed baseball, then a group of strangers made it right

A young boy at a baseball game
Camden Cleveland at a Minnesota Twins baseball game.
Courtesy photo

Sam Cleveland and his son Camden are big Twins fans. They moved to Maryland awhile ago, but they still catch Twins games as often as they can.

The pair were at a game a couple of weeks ago when Byron Buxton signed a ball for Camden. But before he could even have it, someone grabbed it from the usher and ran away. His story went viral, and the Twins came back and gave Camden much more than a signed baseball.

Thank You, Stranger is our series about unexpected kindness in our lives. If you have a story to share about a stranger who made your life a little brighter, we want to hear it.

Contact us at minnesotanow@mpr.org or ‪(612) 361-1252‬.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: For this week's installment of Thank You, Stranger, we hear about a mystery baseball thief and a quest to make things right for an eight-year-old Twins fan. Our producer Ellen Finn has more.

ELLEN FINN: Sam Cleveland and his son Camden are big Twins fans. They moved to Maryland a while ago, but they still catch Twins games as often as they can. Camden recently had a streak of bad luck. He broke his wrist and had to miss some of his own baseball games. So the pair were especially excited to see a Twins game against the Orioles in Baltimore a few weeks ago.

SAM CLEVELAND: We went early so we could go and try to get autographs from his favorite players. We only get to see the Twins a handful of times a year.

ELLEN FINN: Camden's goal was to get a ball signed by his favorite Twins player, Byron Buxton.

SAM CLEVELAND: So we're at the game and really trying to get him to do it on his own because players aren't going to sign if their dad's standing right there or doing it for them. I want him to get that independent feeling. So he went over there, I was sitting at the seats. And he gave the ball to the usher to give to Byron to get signed. The next thing he knows is usher is getting ready to hand it back to him, and a brown glove grabs the ball from him and then they take off.

ELLEN FINN: Someone had stolen his autographed ball. It was gone.

SAM CLEVELAND: He was just inconsolable. He was crying. He was really upset. It was his favorite baseball player that only comes out here a handful of times a year. So he was just heartbroken. So after the game ended, we were in the garage, and then he broke down crying again. And it was a lot. As a parent, it's hard to have your kid crying.

ELLEN FINN: After the game. Sam made a Facebook post about his son's ball getting snatched away from him. A fellow Twins fan shared the post on Twitter. That's when things really started to take a turn.

SAM CLEVELAND: The support was unreal from the baseball community. It was just so many nice words and everybody like, let's help this kid out. And the Byron himself tweeted at me and said, we're going to make this right, I got you.

ELLEN FINN: A few days later, Sam's family went to another game between the Twins and the Orioles. A sideline reporter for the Twins, Audra Martin, contacted Sam and told him that she had a few surprises for them during the game. The Orioles even upgraded the family's seats.

SAM CLEVELAND: Just the fact that everybody rallied around such a negative moment, it was really starting to like, oh, something good's going to happen to him today. Like, you had an idea that something was-- something bigger was playing.

ELLEN FINN: In the fourth inning of the game, the Twins sideline reporter Audra Martin met up with Sam and Camden.

SAM CLEVELAND: She's like, well, Byron has a few gifts for you. And she handed him an autographed baseball, a pair of his batting gloves, and then gave him an autographed bat by Byron himself. And at that point, you could see him starting to cry. He was just in shock.

ELLEN FINN: But that wasn't all.

SAM CLEVELAND: After the game was done, Kody Funderburk, one of the relief pitchers, came over, and Kody signed a ball for him and he signed his cast for him because that was Camden's original goal for the series, was to get at least one Twins player to sign his cast for his broken wrist. He said it's like the best day ever. He's over the moon about it.

ELLEN FINN: They never solved the mystery of the stolen ball, but Camden and Sam don't mind that much anymore.

SAM CLEVELAND: As a parent, it just-- it warmed my heart and restored my faith in humanity because it took that negative moment and turned it into this core memory that he is always going to remember for the rest of his life. This moment of being eight years old he's always going to remember how kind-- I get a little teared up talking about it because I'm just still shocked about it. It's almost a week later and you're still-- there's never going to be enough words. I'm always going to be indebted to say how gracious you are for them doing that and how blessed we were that they helped our son.

CATHY WURZER: This story, it's so good. That was our producer Ellen Finn with Twins fan Sam Cleveland. If you have a story about the kindness of strangers, we want to hear it. Email us at minnesotanow@mpr.org.

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