Getting signed Mike Trout bat ‘legendary’ moment for ACIT student
MAYS LANDING — On April 27, ACIT security guard Terry Tully fetched Jacob Hackett and told him his presence was required at the main office. Hackett immediately got a lump in his throat. Getting called down to the office is not usually a good thing when you are a high school student. So there was a little bit of trepidation in Jacob's fingers as he guided his wheelchair down to the office.
What happened next put a smile on Jacob's face that probably would have to have been surgically removed if his friends didn't want to see it anymore that day. Jacob was informed that he was about to receive a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim blanket and a baseball bat autographed by one of his heroes — South Jersey's own Mike Trout, the 2014 American League MVP. Jacob also was informed that there was a press conference waiting in the school's cafe featuring members of area media organizations as well as the school's television crew.
Trout held a Twitter contest in which he was going to give away a signed bat, and while ACIT didn't win, Tully began to work some connections she had with the Trout family to see if there was a way Trout would be willing to send a signed bat to Jacob, who has been heavily involved with the South Jersey Field of Dreams — a youth baseball league specifically designed for special needs children. ACIT students Ahmad Grate, Derrick Gyening and Jeremiah Motta also went on a campaign as part of a school social media project to try to get Trout to send Jacob a bat.
"I am in shock. I mean, I came up here, security escorted me up, and I thought, 'oh, no, what did I do?' I didn't expect this!" Jacob said. "They told me in October this was going to happen, but I didn't think I had a chance (to get a bat)."
"We saw the Facebook post. We needed a project to do, so we thought about helping someone out. Jacob, it doesn't matter what he's going through in life, he always has a smile on his face. He's been through a lot, so we thought, why not help him out and try to get him a bat? We were surprised (Trout) responded," Grate said. "He was speechless, and that was very heartwarming and inspiring. (Jacob) is a role model to all of us here at ACIT."
Gyening said he didn't realize there would be a huge press conference to announce the bat giveaway. The entire cafe was filled with teachers, members of the student media class, members of local media organizations, and even Jacob's mom, Heidi.
"I honestly didn't know it was going to be this big. I thought it was just going to be a private thing where they gave him the bat. I was surprised that so many people came to see that he got the Mike Trout bat," Gyening said. "It's really cool. It makes you think about life, and if you put your mind to something you can achieve it."
Heidi Hackett said she got a call from Tully two days before the press conference and passed the phone over to her husband to keep Jacob in the dark about the scheduled press conference. After the press conference, Jacob finally put his mother's ruse together. Normally she would not have any problem talking on the phone in front of him, but she wanted to keep the surprise, she said.
"My husband got a call from Terry and she was telling him about it. It was a total surprise for him. He was speechless," Heidi said. "He's a very good boy with a big heart. It was really nice. And the boys that did this for him, I have no words. It's incredible. He's unsure what to do right now.
Jacob said he was impressed that his classmates made such an effort to do something nice for him.
"They helped put it all together. I was very proud of them."
When asked what it was like to receive a personally signed baseball bat from one of the best players in Major League Baseball, Jacob said, "It's legendary. They all know me well here and they said, 'you never act speechless.' But now I am."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays