Sometimes I look back and wonder how I found some of the unique people in my life or maybe how they found me! My life changed after meeting the “Catman” during my college days.
I started college in 1972, four hours from home without knowing anyone. I played baseball and football on a scholarship at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. My parents drove me to Jewell that August since freshmen weren’t allowed to have cars on campus. Shortly after saying goodbye to my family, I met my roomate, Dan Stephens, another baseball and football player. The name Dan didn’t stick beyond our first weeks at Jewell. He soon earned the title “Catman” after the famous British singer/ songwriter, Cat Stevens.
Cat and I instantly hit it off. We shared similar family backgrounds and interests. It was almost unique how our lives were so similar. Cat grew up in Raytown, a small city in eastern Missouri while I hailed from Union on the westside of the state. He loyally cheered for the Royals, and I relentlessly followed Cardinals baseball. From move-in day until graduation, together we explored the many things life had to offer us as young men. I would look back on these days fondly over the years and count them as some of the best.
We quickly befriended our neighbors on the east side third floor of our dorm: Ed Murphy, Mike Wilson, Dennis Mustoe, Terry Dykes, and Larry Young. Our friend group decided on a nickname, “Third East Beasts” or “TEB.” We collectively discovered our favorite hangouts, Shakey’s Pizza, Kelso’s, and of course any party we could find. But, that’s another story for another day, and one that won’t be written!
Four years of playing ball together meant time on the road, spending hours in between games, discussing things that were deeper than what we initially discussed when we first met. The Third East Beasts shared about our lives, our hopes, dreams, and goals. We talked about our brothers, sisters, and parents. Over time we became like family.
Cat’s parents welcomed me into their home. I couldn’t drive to my hometown freshmen year, so I often found myself at Cat’s instead. His parents, Leroy and Virginia, took care of us. Warm and friendly, our visits to his house always felt special. The meals were out of this world as Virginia would never let us leave hungry. I was lucky to have known Virginia and Leroy and blessed to have them in my life at that time. After college, Cat and I lost touch, and I didn’t see him or his family for many years. However, Cat’s sister initiated our reunion. I met his wife, Debbie, and his daughter, Carissa.
Being reunited after many years was a blessing. We experienced four years of college and four baseball seasons, one of which was a great championship season. When we played our last game at William Jewell, we realized that a pivotal moment of our lives ended. College and baseball contributed so much to our personal growth, and we outgrew it. A year and a half ago Cat and I attended the Hall of Fame ceremony at William Jewell. A proud moment for both of us. Since then, my wife, Sandy, and I hosted the Stephens at our condo and plan to make make more memories together.
Just over a year ago, Virginia passed, and I attended her funeral. I regrettably hadn’t seen her since college. This world truly lost a saint. I was glad I was there to pay my respects, but also felt sad that I missed so much in between.
Life takes us funny places. It was through rough times and adversity that I could have really used my friend’s help. But in my years of struggling, I tried to just “get through” it, making me reclusive and distant from my friends and family. It’s a regret I carry with me still.
You know, you have those friends that when someone mentions them, you say, “I haven’t seen them in years.” You know you should look them up, but you never find the time. Time just passes, and another year goes by then another. You come to regret it later. I would encourage everyone to reunite with a good friend they haven’t visited in awhile. Even though you have missed time, it is never too late to catch up.
Life happens, but I will always treasure the fact that Cat and I talk often now, recalling the good ole days or sharing about our present lives. The Cat will always be the Cat to me. He will always be my college roomie, my baseball teammate, and my friend. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, life comes back to you full circle. It comes by luck, by chance, or sometimes just comes back because the memories always lived in your heart and mind. I prefer to think it is the latter.