QUINCY — Peter McManus missed his favorite player.
McManus, 48, became a fan of Tyler Clark-Chiapparelli during the 2019 season for the Quincy Gems. No summer collegiate baseball leagues had games in 2020, and Clark-Chiapparelli started the 2021 summer season with the Morehead City (N.C.) Marlins of the Coastal Plain League.
McManus, who is developmentally disabled, was so determined to see Clark-Chiapparelli play this summer that he started saving money from his jobs at Transitions of Western Illinois and Challenges Unlimited to buy a plane ticket to North Carolina.
“He was getting pretty close to going,” said Vonnie Tucker, a direct support person at Transitions who works with and attends many Gems games with McManus. “The next thing for him was to get all the arrangements made to get him out there.
“But the funny thing was that after Saturday’s game, when we were going home, Peter said, ‘I just wish my guy would come here.’”
That plane ticket is no longer needed.
McManus’ guy came home.
Clark-Chiapparelli was disenchanted in Morehead City, getting only 17 at-bats before leaving the team. He contacted Quincy Gems owner Jimmie Louthan about returning to Quincy, and he informed Tucker last week he would be back.
He surprised McManus and met with Tucker and other friends about an hour before Tuesday night’s Prospect League game against the Springfield Sliders. They talked at the same spot where they first met — down the third-base line in the chair seats along the wall.
“I try to be good with the fans and everything,” Clark-Chiapparelli said. “That’s what it’s about during summer ball. You interact with the fans and make them want to come here and enjoy every moment of it.
“I’ve made a lot of interactions with people here. I just connected (with McManus) through baseball.”
Tucker said she tried to help McManus find a new favorite player this season, but he didn’t want any part of it.
“It just wasn’t happening,” she said with a laugh. “When he wanted to see Tyler (in North Carolina), he said, ‘I really don’t want to have to travel that far, but I just really want to see him play.’”
Tucker contacted Clark-Chiapparelli on Facebook and planned to have McManus talk to him on his birthday — until she found out he was rejoining the team.
“It’s been all I can do not to tell Peter he was coming here,” she said.
Tucker said the Gems players are typically outgoing with many of the developmentally disabled fans who come to the games. She said Clark-Chiapparelli befriended McManus as he warmed up before games.
“Tyler always came up along (the seats along the third-base line) and would shake hands. It was just amazing to see the rapport with (McManus),” Tucker said. “Tyler has a good heart, and he has a mother who has Lupus (a chronic autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue). So I think that makes him an extra special person.”
Clark-Chiapparelli hails from Round Rock, Texas, and attends Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. His first experience with the Gems was a memorable one. He batted .373 in 2019, finishing third in the Prospect League with 75 hits and tied for third in the league with 15 home runs.
“This really feels like it’s always my second home,” Clark-Chiapparelli said. “I love everyone here. Everybody has opened their arms to me.”
“I always try to make connections, especially with those who are less fortunate. Everyone’s beautiful in their own way,” Clark-Chiapparelli said. “When you find out someone is willing to save up his money to come see you … it’s a real tear jerker. It makes you feel good. When someone connects with me on a level that they’ll always remember me, then I’ll always remember them.”
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.Purchase Story