COLUMBUS — Rising from her wheelchair, Amanda Wessel paused on the grass in front of the pitching mound at Pawnee Park Field.
She was about to toss the first pitch to her son Tyler, who waited at home plate.
“Curveball? Knuckle? What do you boys want?” Wessel jokingly asked members of the Junior Blues baseball team lined up along the third base line before Wednesday's game.
She settled on “just a throw” and let the ball go.
Tyler fielded the toss and approached his mom, who greeted him with a big hug. The two embraced for a few moments as the crowd cheered and applauded.
Then music began to play over the public address system. It was a familiar song, “Don’t Stop Believin’.” That has been Wessel’s theme song since she was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2016.
The mother of four has been a constant at youth baseball events, cheering on the players and sometimes razzing the umpires.
She hardly ever missed a game until this year, when her health worsened. Wessel had been receiving treatment for the cancer and managing the disease until recently.
“Things were going good until three weeks ago when I was told there was nothing more they could do. So I’m taking it one day at a time,” she said.
Wessel is in hospice care, but came to the ball field to see Tyler play and receive a special honor.
It was the annual American Legion Baseball Fan Appreciation Day. The celebration typically includes free popcorn and T-shirts for fans, but this night was special as it put Wessel in the spotlight.
“She’s the voice in the crowd that we hear encouraging our boys and supporting our boys. She’s our No. 1 fan. So when it was Fan Appreciation Day, we thought how appropriate to dedicate this day to her,” said Janell Mustard.
Mustard and Tina Pelan helped organize the event, which included Wessel throwing out the first pitch and receiving flowers from the Junior Blues players and coaches. Mustard and Pelan have sons who play baseball with Wessel's.
The Junior Blues caps were also embroidered with a white ribbon in honor of Wessel.
Jeff and Ann Budler were also guests of honor. Their son Jacob played Legion ball before dying of cancer in 2007.
Pelan said they wanted to give the moment to Wessel not only for her support of youth sports, but also because she has been so strong during her fight against cancer and a great role model.
Wessel was speechless when she learned about the recognition.
“I’ve watched these boys play together since they were 7, the majority of them. So this is neat. It’s awesome,” she said.
Wessel missed the team's season opener on Monday, but was told by Tyler she had to attend Wednesday night.
“I had strict orders that I couldn’t miss the game,” she said.