Just wanted to send along some snapshots and postcards from this jewel in the middle of town called Day Air Ballpark. No doubt you had the best seat in the house Wednesday night to watch your buddy Logan Wilson stage his first annual celebrity softball game and you made a lot of new friends as the Who-Dey faithful gathered to enjoy this team they just can't get enough of.
As always, Logan's night was your night. "That's the way he is," says your dad, Josh Anderson. "Always trying to deflect and do something for somebody else."
The Brooks Joshua Foundation has been Wilson's passion since even before your family created it eight years ago in a wave of shock and loss, back when he was looking for his own set of answers while trying to figure out his freshman year at the University of Wyoming.
Now here is the always unassuming Wilson managing his band of Bengals against another band of teammates led by the most electric of Bengals, franchise legend Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson. The Bengals all-time leading receiver and social media pioneer, like all the players, is wearing a Logan Wilson Foundation jersey with a "Play For Brooks" logo. It is the Ochos vs. the Wilsons. About 25 Bengals came out because Wilson asked.
"I'm making a comeback. I'm going to practice tomorrow," says the Ocho in the dugout before the game. Reminded it's an early one at Paycor Stadium at 8:30, he says no problem.
"I get up at 5 every day," Johnson says. "I'm making a comeback. I'm playing cornerback. I'm a better defensive player. No one can catch it on me."
Your brothers, six-year-old Maddox and three-year-old Rhys, are doing what you always see them do. They're all over Wilson before the game, tagging along. "He's like their big brother," your dad says.
"It's a grief journey for us that has turned into so much more than that," says your mom Jamie. "This is definitely a full-circle moment," says Morgan Wilson, the Wyoming co-ed Logan married last year.
They called it sudden death infant syndrome when you left after just four-and-a-half months, which means they really don't know. SIDS. But ever since they lost you, they've been trying to help others find out why. The foundation raises money for SIDS research and a college scholarship fund known as "Books From Brooks," which pays for the books of 14 students from the school district of Natrona County High School in Casper, Wyo.
That's where your dad coached Wilson on the football and basketball teams and this is what your dad said a couple of years ago, the spring Logan Wilson took over the Bengals defense and became one of the NFL's best middle linebackers:
"When we had our tragedy, (Wilson) was a magnet over at our house. He was texting and calling and checking in. Any time he was in town he would be there for hours and hours on end. He played such a major role in our lives. He didn't wait for us to ask. We're so thankful for him interjecting himself in our lives. When we would go to church and share, Joshua 1:9 will be the scripture that always pops up. It's one of those things it's just too much to deny."
Joshua 1:9. The Bible verse.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Now here is D.J. Reader, the glue-of-it-all nose tackle and high school baseball phenom, straightening his sleeve with the Brooks logo and drilling a homer the opposite way. There is Pro Bowl sacker Trey Hendrickson running out of the first base coach's box to greet him at the plate with Reader's sack shoveling celebration.
"It's surreal to see our foundation's logo up there. We're a small-time deal. A handful of us do our foundation and the two of us (Josh and Jamie) grind to put the whole thing together. To see this, it's incredible, mind-blowing," Josh Anderson says.
"To see it on the backdrop of his meet and greet and his press conference, it's the kind of moment that choked us all up. Seeing our little Brooks man's logo on all that."
If you want to know why these fans love this team, your buddy Logan is a big reason why. Let Giovani Bernard say it.
He played just a year with him when Wilson was a rookie, but he wouldn't miss this event even though he retired from the league back in April. Other than one swing playing whiffle ball with his nephew and throwing out the first pitch at a recent Marlins game, Bernard hasn't done much so his robust home run derby performance is impressive.
"When I found out Logan was doing this, I knew I just had to be here," Bernard is saying as he waits for another swing. "Logan is awesome. I'm a fan of his. I feel like he has that humble trait. He's a star on the field. So humble, so giving and that's so huge for me. I love what he does on the field, more so off the field. Logan has the perfect type of personality to get out there in the community and do what he does."
There is Sam Hubbard, the Cincinnati Kid, drawing a huge ovation. On this night the ovation meter seems to be tied among Hubbard, The Ocho, and head coach Zac Taylor. Hubbard and Hendrickson had massive competition in the derby and Hendrickson beat him by one.
"Hey, I haven't played since fourth grade. Lacrosse guy," Hubbard says. He's here because Wilson asked. "Incredibly reliable. Great teammate. He's finding his voice and growing more and more as a leader."
If you want to know why these fans love this team, your buddy Logan is showing why. Just ask his fellow linebacker Joe Bachie. They're holding Bachie out of drills because of a minor injury and he's not playing in the game. But the old Berea High School center fielder won the home run derby and volunteered to DH. He was good enough to be on a travel baseball team growing up around Cleveland, but it just wasn't exciting as football.
"When I came here, he was a MIKE linebacker and he was the competition," says Bachie, holding the derby trophy. "I wasn't really supposed to like him at first, but he's just so hard not to like. He and his wife are unbelievable people. He's one of my best friends. He's one of the best human beings out there."
Now here is Morgan Wilson holding linebacker Germaine Pratt's son in front of the dugout and helping shield the toddlers from home-run derby foul balls. It turns out the team chemistry Zac Taylor has developed and has made this team so popular in every city across Bengaldom is also flowing outside the locker room.
"There's this thing about Cincinnati. It's so different," Morgan Wilson says. "Granted, I haven't been to any other teams, but I feel like the culture here between the players, coaches, and significant others is like nothing else. We're close with Germaine and his fiancé. Joe Bachie's fiancee and I are best friends. Hakeem Adeniji and his wife are really close."
She compares the community fabric to Wyoming, where last winter the neighbors helped each other dig out from a 36-inch snowstorm. When they moved into their new home in Casper, everyone knew Logan Wilson was coming and they had more than the movers helping them unload the truck.
"It's a really tight-knit community that rallies around you and it's really cool," Morgan Wilson says as she glances around the ballpark.
That's why your dad doesn't have to worry about filling next month's Brooks Joshua golf tournament fundraiser. Logan is signed up. He's gold in those silent auctions. The Wyoming faithful gobble up any Cowboys gear Wilson has signed. An autographed Logan Wilson Wyoming helmet just went for $2,600.
"He's our most famous guy. He's the most famous guy in Wyoming. We don't call him 'The Governor,' for nothing," Josh Anderson says. "You can see 'The Logan Effect.' When he gets involved, other people want to be involved."
Here is The Logan Effect.
There is long-snapper Cal Adomitis drilling 11 homers in his first derby round and saying he made the ride because Wilson asked. Tee Higgins, who had two 1,000-yard seasons wearing The Ocho's No. 85 before trading it in for No. 5 this spring, is leaning on a dugout railing trying to recall his favorite Chad TD celebrations while growing up before settling on the golf where Johnson putted the football with a pylon. Germaine Pratt is trying to corral his two kids, an assignment on this night as daunting as trying to catch Lamar Jackson.
They were doing what your brothers were doing. Having fun in the dirt and sun, looking for food and Gatorade and tugging on new friends.
"Both boys never got to meet their big brother," Josh Anderson says. "They know a little bit of his impact and live his legacy. It's really sweet because they talk about him all the time."
Now there is your dad and your logo as Logan gets ready to pitch to The Ocho.