Father and Son Hope to Return Home Run Ball from 1998 CWS

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Father and Son Hope to Return Home Run Ball from 1998 CWS
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Ray Rasmussen, left, and Jeremy Rasmussen, right.

On Father's Day 2012, Ray Rasmussen and his son, Jeremy, spoke about being on a mission while visiting TD Ameritrade Park for the College World Series (CWS) -- one they hope to successfully complete.

In 1998, they attended a CWS game at Rosenblatt Stadium between the Arizona State Sun Devils and Long Beach State 49ers. Jeremy was just 12 years old, but his memory of that day is clear.

It was cold -- yes, cold. One game summary says it was 50 degrees at game time with a 39 degree wind chill. Jeremy says he complained about the temperature, but everything changed when ASU infielder Andrew Beinbrink hit a home run to left field, directly at Ray and Jeremy.

Jeremy turned away from the ball, but Ray stepped up, pulling in the home run ball with two hands like he was Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship Game, according to Jeremy.

"He pulled it down, and brought it back," Jeremy said. "So, he's not saying much. Then he hands me the ball and starts shaking his hands because he caught it barehanded. We didn't have gloves. It's like the temperature went up 10-15 degrees. I didn't notice the cold anymore."

Knowing that the star players of each game went to the Hall of Fame room at the grand old ballpark, father and son waited patiently for Beinbrink to appear. Eventually he did, and he autographed the ball for them.

"For a 12-year-old kid to have a signed home run ball from the College World Series while you are out at the ballpark with your dad -- it doesn't get much better than that," Jeremy said.

Ray says he knows exactly where the ball is right now. He and Jeremy have enjoyed the ball long enough. They are hoping to find Beinbrink so they can return it to him.

"We're trying to find him and give him the ball back because it's going to mean a heck of a lot to him to have it back, having hit a home run in the College World Series," Ray said. The Sun Devils were the CWS runner up that season.

Ray and Jeremy don't need the ball. The memories of attending the CWS every year since 1998 are enough for them. In fact, the tradition is multi-generational.

"I started going to the College World Series in 1975 with my dad," Ray said. His father's name was James. Sadly, James passed away last November. "They didn't even have left field bleachers back then. The old wooden ones were down the third base line."

Ray attended the CWS for about 10 straight seasons with his dad, from '75 to the mid-'80s. After getting married, he took a break, but then he resumed the tradition with Jeremy. This year, they brought Jeremy's younger sister too.

"Baseball has been a family tradition for us," Jeremy said. "Whether it's been the College World Series or the Omaha Royals [the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals] when the Series was played earlier in the year, we were at a baseball game almost every year on Father's Day."

Being together on Father's Day is enough for both of them, but they had a pre-holiday thrill when Ray got to meet one of his baseball heroes, Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench, at TD Ameritrade Park on Saturday, June 16.

Circumstances couldn't have worked out any better.

Years ago, Ray owned a Johnny Bench model mitt during his baseball playing days and he passed it on to Jeremy when he began to play the game. Somehow, Jeremy lost the mitt, but he redeemed himself.

"I found a Johnny Bench model mitt on eBay," Jeremy said. "I bought it and it was going to be my Father's Day gift this year, but then I found out that Bench was coming to town to talk about the Johnny Bench Award for being the best collegiate catcher. So we came down here yesterday to get his autograph."

Bench signed a photo for Ray and he held onto the mitt while the two men chatted about catching for a few minutes.

"I've never seen my dad light up like that," Jeremy said. "It was like meeting … Johnny Bench. It was neat for me to see him that excited about something."

Like father, like son when it comes to providing CWS thrills.

Lee Warren is a freelance writer who lives in Omaha, Nebraska and is covering the 2012 College World Series for YCN.

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