KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) – There are baseball fans and then there’s Noody.
Noody is the nickname for Mason Millsaps. At age 7, he is a fixture at Tennessee Smokies home games.
“This is like a dream come true for him,” says his dad, Wes Millsaps. “He lives for this.”
For most people, Smokies Stadium is a place to watch a game and relax. It’s certainly that for the Millsaps, but it’s also a place where a little boy whose daily life is defined by terms like apraxia, infusions and cerebral palsy gets to push all those big words away and just be a kid.
“This is probably the happiest he is when we’re at this park,” says his dad. “This is his heaven.”
And in Noody’s heaven, the angels wear uniforms. “We get excited to see him when he comes out,” says pitcher PJ Francescon, the long haired, big bearded all-star closer for the Smokies. Francescon is intimidating to just about every opposing hitter in the Southern League, but not to Noody.
“Mason wasn’t intimidated at all,” says his dad. “It was just a bond. They drew to each other.”
“It’s something special,” adds Francescon. “It’s one of those things that’s really hard to explain.”
With the attention of PJ and fellow pitcher Corey Black, Noody has become an unofficial member of the Smokies’ bullpen. “He keeps the mood light and kind of keeps our mind off the stresses of the game,” says Francescon.
“It blows my mind how they treat him,” says his dad. “This kind of gives us a break. We have a bullpen of babysitters.”
The Millsaps live in Madisonville and make the three hour road trip for most home games. It’s not hard to understand why.
“You see it in his (Noody’s) eyes every time he comes out here,” says Francescon. “He just loves the game.”