“In a digital world, sport provides the opportunity to bring people together.” – Edwin Moses
Sports have a way of connecting people, no matter what the scoreboard shows. It can unite people in a win, offer a circle of support when things aren’t going your teams way and introduce you to people you otherwise, would have never met. At the regionals this past weekend, my family had fate working on our side as we experienced this first hand. Our seats were just below where our season tickets are and as a baseball fan, this had me nervous, as we are a very superstitious group of people. Anyways, we arrived on Friday, ready to enjoy a weekend of baseball but the seats in front of us remained empty the whole game. I was disappointed that the front row seats weren’t filled but we won the first game and that’s what mattered. Saturday rolls around and we’re all excited to be back at Jim Patterson and right around first pitch, a family takes their seats in front of us. A family of five with 3 boys all close in age, my family instantly connected with that as we are a family of five but with 3 girls all a few years apart. After saying hi, we found out they had traveled in from Oklahoma and their car actually broke down on their 12 hour ride in on Friday! Needless to say, we were all shocked to hear where they were from and what they had gone through to get to the game. That is when we found out they were there not only to enjoy some great baseball, but support their close friend, Luke Smith. This is the story of how Luke met the first members of his fan club – the Hoopingarner family.
“Our road to Louisville has been a long one.”
“In 2017, our oldest boys little league team hosted the Parkland Cobras during the JUCO World Series in Enid, Oklahoma. Right away, our youngest, Blake, became Luke’s number one fan. I don’t think Blake left his side for an entire week. Since then, we have kept in touch. In fact, that same summer, Luke went out of his way to meet us when we were visiting family in Illinois. We kept in touch throughout the year and we were able to make it to the JUCO regionals in 2018 in Bloomington when the Parkland Cobras won and locked in another visit to our hometown in Enid, OK. That year we also met and became friends with Luke’s parents. They really opened up their hearts and made us feel like family. The entire family has been so amazing.
We’ve been following Louisville baseball all season whenever we can and planned another visit north/east for the same time as the regionals. It was a trip that will be remembered for the rest of our lives. All 3 boys (age 12.11.8) have claimed Luke as their own. He’s is such a great leader and role model. His great sportsmanship along with his focus and drive to excel have been so much fun to watch.
Blake’s favorite part of being friends with Blake is of course getting to watch him play baseball. Of course, after Sunday’s game that means even more now!! But it’s also that whenever the boys are around Luke he makes them feel like the most important person there. Luke has a way of doing that with everyone. He’s a remarkable young man, one we are privileged to be able to foster a lifelong friendship with. We may not be able to make it to Omaha, but we’re already planning on a stop in Louisville next year for more baseball!!
Louisville treated us well! All the people were great. We felt right at home in the stands. Of course it helped we were wearing Louisville fan gear. Sooo much energy in the stands! Just driving through the campus with all the sports complexes was incredibly impressive. It’s amazing that the campus offers so many sports and has the facilities for them all. I haven’t seen anything at the Oklahoma schools that compares.
OF course our favorite and unforgettable moment was the 9 innings that Luke pitched. Especially when he barehanded the ball and threw it to first for the out. It was so much fun to watch him and the team play that game. It will forever be an unforgettable night.”
I also had to get the Hoopingarner family to answer one of the most important questions of all time – is a hot dog a sandwich?
Evan – No, a hotdog is not a sandwich because sandwich is sliced meat between bread with cheese. And you can’t put mayo on a hotdog.
Reed – No, a hotdog is not a sandwich because it’s too skinny
Blake – No, a hotdog is not a sandwich because you cook it on the grill with burgers.
Jeff and Tanna- No, because it’s a hotdog!
I would like to personally thank the Hoopingarner family for sharing their story with not only my family, but with CardNation. They were an absolute joy to cheer with this past weekend, and we will miss them at the Supers. I believe it is easy as fans to get wrapped up in the postseason craziness and all the hype that constantly swirls around the UofL baseball program. It is always nice to be reminded that we are lucky to have some of the best collegiate athletes competing for us, but also some of the best humans wearing the UofL jersey as well.