TORONTO -- Kitty Cohen was waiting patiently when manager John Gibbons emerged from the Toronto Blue Jays' dugout on Saturday morning. The 103-year-old was parked in front of her walker and surrounded by friends and family when Gibbons came onto the field to meet her before Saturday's game against the Detroit Tigers. She greeted him with open arms, reaching up to wrap Gibbons in a hug and planting a kiss on his cheek, but after that she was all business.
Cohen made a beeline for the basepaths, with Gibbons doing his best to keep up.
It's not every day the 54-year-old skipper strays from his pregame managerial duties, but Saturday was a notable exception, born from an unusual request he received back in spring training.
A letter arrived in his office in Dunedin, Florida -- with no return address listed -- from Cohen, a Toronto resident and longtime Blue Jays fan. She informed Gibbons it was her dream to one day "run" the bases at Rogers Centre.
Admiring her moxie, Gibbons felt he had to find a way to make it happen, so, with the help of Holly Gentemann, the Blue Jays' manager of player relations, they tracked down the nursing home where Cohen lives and arranged a date to make her wish come true. Saturday was that day.
Cohen veered off track only once, when she passed first base and appeared to be headed for right field with the vim and vigor of an outfielder chasing down a fly ball, but Gibbons quickly corralled her toward second instead.
From there, she picked up speed and hustled around the basepaths, hamming it up for the cheering crowd of fans and family who flew in from Vancouver and Switzerland for the momentous day.
When she arrived at home plat,e she finished with a flourish, beaming and waving her hot pink feather boa in celebration.
Overheard after she crossed the finish line? Someone joked, "We might need an oxygen tank out here!"
And they weren't talking about Cohen. They were talking about Gibbons.