Children shuffled toward Jairo Muñoz. They knew nothing about him except what they saw: a 6-foot-5 pitcher, 24 years old, skinny as a snake and smiling at them shyly, his navy-blue-trimmed white uniform drooping off him like a limp flag from a pole. Each of them offered him a cap, or a baseball, or a sleeve of a shirt, and a pen. They said little. He said less.
The scope of the project had exceeded John Durso’s wildest hopes long before he met Jairo Muñoz, and his cellphone hummed like a harmonica because of it. A friend of Durso’s, a buddy he’d played baseball with since they were teenagers, had died in an accident in 2009, and to help the friend’s widow and son, Durso had organized a fund-raiser, a home run derby at a Little League field, in their old Roxborough neighborhood.
To John Durso, nothing could better demonstrate his devotion to helping Jairo Muñoz than those freezing November nights in North Philadelphia. Durso had welcomed Muñoz on to the Homers for Hope baseball team, and into his home. He and his wife, Katie, had taught Muñoz some rudimentary English. He had done all of this under the tyranny of the calendar.