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The sky was a perfect hue of blue above AT&T Park while a raucous crowd of 42,000 fans packed the seats for the San Francisco Giants season opener on Thursday, April 7, 2016.
By the end of the second inning, the Giants had already dropped two runs to their arch rivals, the dreaded Dodgers from Los Angeles. Despite the early deficit, the mood was festive and the hometown crowd was brimming with excitement for the first pitch of a much anticipated even year of Giants baseball.
For Consuelo, a recipient of home delivered groceries from Meals On Wheels of San Francisco (MOWSF), attending the Giants season opener was a long-established tradition in her
life. Consuelo has been to all but four season openers since she immigrated to San Francisco from Cuba in 1962.
But this particular opening day would prove to be one that Consuelo would never forget.
Moments after the end of the second inning, photos of Consuelo and her favorite player – Orlando Cepeda, a retired Giant who had been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1999 – splashed onto the gigantic scoreboard. At the same time, the voice of famed Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon revealed to all the fans an unforgettable encounter between Consuelo and Orlando from a few weeks earlier. The ball park camera panned in on Consuelo and fellow seatmate and MOWSF volunteer Conor, relishing the grandeur of the moment. It was the tail end of a GIANT surprise that had
been in the works for quite some time, and the beginning of a beautiful and unlikely friendship between Consuelo and Orlando Cepeda.
Consuelo, a resident of a senior living complex run by Mercy Housing – just up river from AT&T Park – has received groceries from Meals On Wheels since 2012. Right around the same time, Conor, a young, energetic software engineer, started as a volunteer delivery driver for our home-delivered grocery program. The two became fast friends, in part because of their mutual love of the Giants.
With Conor’s help, Consuelo’s story followed a circuitous path to land in the office of the Giants Public Affairs and Community Relations department. From there, the club quickly mobilized to entice Orlando Cepeda, a resident of Fairfield, CA, to masquerade as a driver for Meals On Wheels, and surprise Consuelo with her weekly delivery of groceries.
Once the shock of his visit subsided, a tearful Consuelo recounted the years she’d been a fan, and the two reminisced in a mix of Spanish and English about growing up in Cuba (Consuelo) and Puerto Rico (Orlando). They became fast friends, and made plans to meet for lunch and even watch some games together; an incredible offering for a woman who had used her limited income to buy tickets for other residents of her senior center.
One might argue the same karma that brought Consuelo and Orlando together inspired an electric comeback on Opening Day. In the 5th inning, the Giants started swinging for the fence and notched a big win against the Dodgers.
This Opening Day both Consuelo and her team proved to the world, once again, that sometimes life offers a GIANT pay back to pay those who pay it forward!