10/25/2010 10:08 AM
Head Coach Rob Keefe (far left), WR Raul Vijil (lower left) visited Dick Fields (center) and some of his family. It was a day none of them will forget.
Sometimes the best gift is not the one you receive but the one you give.
Recently, the Spokane Shock received an email from Wade Fields telling about his father Dick. Over the years, Dick has become a “huge” Shock fan and has developed a special fondness for WR Raul Vijil. After attending a handful of games, Dick became a season ticket holder for the 2010 season. He attended the ArenaBowl Championship game with his sister, Janet Byzewski.
For both of them, the game was truly special. Not only did it allow them to root for their favorite Arena Football team, more importantly, it allowed them to spend time together.
“I don’t know if I can explain it, “Byzewski said. “Dick is my hero and so to be able to go to a sporting event that he and I both love, it was just one of those highlights that we will remember forever. “
One of the things that made the game so special was a gift that Dick’s sister gave him. Prior to the game, Byzewski introduced herself to a group of fans who sit in the FoxHole known as the “FoxHole Crazies.” The FoxHole is right behind the endzone and errant passes often find their way into the hands of the fans who occupy those seats.
“I just kept thinking ‘I have to get him a ball; I have to get him a ball,’” Byzewski remembered. “I noticed that the Crazies were down in the FoxHole, so I thought ‘I’m going for it.’ All they can do is tell me no and think that I am a crazy person!”
After introducing herself to the Crazies, Byzewski convinced them to give her a ball if they caught one. As luck would have it, they did catch a ball and they eagerly gave the ball to Byzewski.
“I ran down the steps and one of the Crazies handed me the football,” Byzewski said. “I took it over and I looked at my brother and said, ‘Dickey this is for you.’ I placed the ball in his lap and his hands were shaking and he got tears in his eyes and said ‘I love you Sis.’”
Dick took the ball home and has it displayed in the living room of his house.
19 years ago, Dick was diagnosed with emphysema and doctors estimated that he had five years left to live. About a month after the ArenaBowl, doctors delivered the news that no one in the family wanted to hear: he had six to nine more months to live. According to the doctors, the respiratory disease had finally caught up to him.
Shortly after receiving this news, the Fields family became an even tighter unit and prompted Wade to send the email to the Shock. In the email, Wade asked to have the ball signed as a gift for his dying father who is a hero to each of his siblings.
The Shock offered to not only autograph the ball, but to visit Dick in person at his home where he lives with his oldest son, Scott and his daughter-in-law Brenda.
“It was like I was in a dream world,” Dick explained. “I’m just an average guy and I was not expecting that type of attention. I’ve done a lot of things in my life, but never anything to get any attention. I guess in my end days, I’m getting more attention than I know what to do with!”
But if you ask Dick’s family, he is anything but an ‘average guy.’
In addition to serving in the Air Force, Dick has driven buses for the Spokane Transit Authority, provided foster care for troubled youth, and is an ordained minister.
“He is our hero. He’s a wonderful man who would give you the shirt off his back,” Scott explained. “He’s always been there. He’s the anchor and the rock for the whole family. I know he has been my hero my whole life.”
Shortly after the Shock arrived at the Fields’ house, it was easy to see why Dick was a hero to his family.
“This is a person who is fighting every day for his life,” Head Coach Rob Keefe explained. “To see him compete in his battle against emphysema is an inspiration to all of us.”
Keefe presented Dick with several gifts from the Shock, including an autographed framed Championship poster along with other one-of-a-kind Shock memorabilia.
As Keefe chatted with the Fields family, he posed a question to Dick: “So, who is your favorite Shock player?”
Without a moment’s hesitation Dick said “Raul Vijil.”
“Vijil has always been Dad’s favorite,” Scott explained. “He puts him right up there with his hero, Steve Largent.”
As Dick continued his conversation with Keefe a surprise visitor came to the door. Right on cue, in walked Raul Vijil.
“When I saw him come to the front door, I couldn’t believe it,” Dick remembered. “It just lifted my day a whole lot higher.”
As Vijil entered the room, he also came bearing gifts for Dick including a personalized autographed poster.
Like Keefe, Vijil, who suffered a season ending injury mid-season last year, was also incredibly inspired by Dick.
“He’s been through a lot. When you hear things like that it gives you hope – not only for sports but for life in general,” Vijil said. “He’s an inspiration to me and I hope he inspires the people who read this story.”
As Keefe and Raul were preparing to leave, they both signed the ball that his sister – with the help of the FoxHole Crazies – retrieved at the ArenaBowl. After they both signed it, the ball was returned to its case, right next to Dick’s Steve Largent autographed ball.
Days later, Dick – who is also a prostate cancer survivor, said that he was ready to renew his battle against emphysema, thanks to the visit from the Shock.
“I’m not a give up type of guy, but I was giving up a little bit. Now, I’m going to renew my fight,” Fields explained. “I’ve done it once before and I did it a heck of a lot longer than they said I would and I’m just going to hit it again. I’m absolutely not going to give up. That’s what seeing Raul and the Shock was all about – it was the Lord letting me know it’s not time to give up yet.”
Vijil, for one, is certainly in Dick’s corner.
“He has overcome a few elements in his life and battled against them,” Vijil said. “I really don’t have any doubt that he can do it again. When the Man Upstairs is ready, he’ll be ready – but Dick is not going to go without a fight. That’s for sure.”
After renewing his fight against emphysema, Dick elected to renew his season tickets for the 2011 season.
“By Golly, I’m going to stick around and see another season,” Dick said. “I’m not going to give up and I’m going to see the Shock defend their Championship!”
Perhaps the gift the Shock gave Dick was just the breath of fresh air he needed in his fight against emphysema. But the gift the Shock gave pales in comparison to what they received for reaching out to a dedicated fan in his time of need.