Our hero would prefer to remain anonymous, but that is not possible. Appleton police officer Jack Taschner’s name is central to this story. He shares most of it, all but one letter, with our other friend, Jack Taschler.
The former, a retired MLB pitcher, and the latter, a 10-year old boy, also share a passion for baseball. Each likes nothing better than a good game of catch.
Though they’ve never officially met, neither will forget the other, such is the infinite impact of Officer Taschner’s generous gift and the poignancy of the memories it evokes.
When he heard his near-namesake’s story, Jack Taschner sent him an autographed picture from his days as a middle relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. He also sent the younger Jack the mitt he is wearing in the picture. On one side of the mitt, the elder Jack scratched out the professionally embroidered N in his name and replaced it with an L. On the other he wrote “For memories of catch with mom.”
Jack Taschler’s mom Karen, who’d pitched backyard batting practice to him, played catch with him in the front yard and cheered him through countless baseball games, had just entered hospice care when young Jack showed her the glove. She popped it on her hand, grinned widely, and posed for pictures with him.
A week later, we played a little pick up baseball game with Jack and his cool new mitt. Jack and his brother Charlie teamed up with Molly and our friend Celia to beat our team of grownups handily. “Your daughter is doing very well,” Jack politely said midway through the game.
A week after that, our friend Karen passed away after a fierce, cure-advancing, seven-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Karen and her boys loved baseball. After her funeral, friends and family honored her further by changing into Brewer gear and heading over to Miller Park for a tailgate and game.
Both the Taschler and the Taschner families can thank America’s game for providing them with precious memories and, thanks to one Jack’s incredibly sweet gesture, a mitt that carries both their names.