SAN DIEGO – Kristin Courtney, a 2002 Fort Loramie High School graduate, couldn’t have imagined her 6-year-old daughter would become a viral sensation when she took her kids to their first Major League Baseball game.
“It’s been very exciting for Abigail,” Courtney said of her daughter. “She has really, really enjoyed the experience.
“(The Cincinnati Reds) really, really made her week.”
Abigail, who recently completed kindergarten, became a social media darling when her mom posted a photo of her to Twitter during a recent Saturday game between the Reds and the San Diego Padres. Abigail’s favorite player, Reds first baseman Joey Votto, was ejected during the first inning for arguing with the umpire after he struck out – leaving the 6-year-old in tears.
Courtney tagged the Reds in her post, which had a photo of Abigail in a Votto T-shirt and the message “When it’s your first MLB game and your favorite player of all time gets thrown out of the game in the first inning….” accompanied by crying emojis and the hashtag #weloveyoujoey.
“It took two innings to calm down,” Courtney said. “She just kept asking for hugs and saying that she was sad that Joey Votto had to leave.”
Abigail also showed her displeasure by booing the Padres. After her mom explained that an umpire had ejected Votto, Abigail’s anger and boos were directed to the umps.
“She said it’s not OK to be mean,” Courtney said, adding that some popcorn helped ease Abigail’s pain.
Courtney’s husband left the game early with their two children, heading back to the hotel to eat and get the kids ready for bed, while she remained at the game.
“I don’t get much of a chance to see them in person so I didn’t want to miss an inning,” said Courtney, who now lives in Los Angeles with her family.
Courtney was shocked when an autographed baseball was delivered from the Reds’ dugout with a message from Votto written on it: “I am sorry I didn’t play the entire game.”
“I was so surprised,” she said. “I think I was in shock. It just didn’t register.
“The note was pretty funny. It seemed very much like Joey Votto from what we know about his personality as fans.”
Along with the signed ball, which Courtney delivered to her daughter that night at the hotel, the Reds gave the family tickets for Sunday’s series finale.
“They were thrilled, especially Abigail being 6. She’s a little more aware of what’s going on,” said Courtney, who also has a 3-year-old son, Parker.
The family had planned to go to the zoo Sunday, but the kids said they’d rather go back to the ballpark.
“Not a soul was disappointed in this family. We had a great time,” Courtney said. “It was another huge surprise. It wasn’t something we were expecting.”
The family’s seats were directly next to the Reds’ dugout, and they got yet another surprise when Votto popped up and greeted Abigail. He signed a Reds board book she’s had since she was born and took a photo with her.
“They’ve been so kind,” Courtney said, saying the family didn’t need an apology or any gifts. “They really showed care and concern for Abigail, which as a parent means the world to me. Abigail felt seen and appreciated, which meant the world to her.”
Other Reds players including Kyle Farmer, Amir Garrett, Jesse Winker, Mike Freeman, Lucas Sims and Scott Heineman also interacted with the kids, both before and after Abigail went viral. Farmer gave both kids signed balls before Saturday’s game, Garrett gave them a Gatorade towel and played with Parker, and Heineman gave them a bat.
“That’s probably the favorite thing for my 3-year-old, a big bat,” Courtney said. “He likes to pretend it’s a sword.”
Of all the players, Votto is Abigail’s favorite. She enjoys playing first base like him in her tee-ball league as it’s in the middle of the action, and the family has two dogs – named Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
Courtney, a lifelong Reds fan, said she’s enjoyed sharing her passion for baseball and the Reds with her kids. They watch each Reds game together, with Abigail usually watching three or four innings a day.
Abigail has loved seeing herself on television and being famous, though her mom has explained to her that this much excitement doesn’t happen every time they go to a game.
“It’s been very surprising,” Courtney said. “Obviously I didn’t expect anything like this. I have very few followers on Twitter and didn’t expect many people to see it.”