KMac’s smile will be missed but never forgotten

He was born as the third of three brothers and unless you are the third of three brothers, you have no idea how miserable that can sometimes be.

But not for KMac.

Oh, there were certainly some moments of being reminded that he was chronologically challenged in his own family. He was faced with walking in the shadow of two very athletic brothers – one of whom was only 16 months older – but KMac handled that by doing what he always did best.

He just smiled.

I knew him from the day he was born and let me assure you that he was probably the happiest person I have ever met. That’s because he may have been the happiest person anybody ever met.

KMac loved everything life had to offer him. He loved his high school, he loved his college, he loved baseball, he loved golf, he loved his friends, he loved being a husband, he loved being a father.

There was nothing he did that he didn’t love. And there was nothing that prevented him from having the smile that was his signature.

KMac died earlier this week and the news just seemed to stop the world for a lot of us. One minute he was alive and talking on the phone – smiling, you can be sure – and the next minute he was gone. The definition of sudden.

He’d gotten a medical bad break years ago and knew it was always going to be with him. But hardly anybody even knew about it because KMac was too busy living his best life.

When he was in high school at Loyola and his brother was the star player, the baseball coach kept KMac on a very limited roster even though he would rarely play. The coach knew he would be a great teammate and could keep stats. And smile.

The next year, when he did get a chance to play, KMac belted one to deep left field in a game at Southwood. He had so wanted to be able to hit a home run like his now-graduated brother, and as soon as he made contact, he turned toward the first base dugout to let his teammates know what he had done. The problem? He hadn’t calculated that it was about 700 feet to deep left-center at Southwood.

KMac was held to a single. As expected, his teammates were all over him from the dugout. Some guys would have been seething. KMac just smiled right back at them.

A couple of years later, he and his brother were on separate summer baseball teams and playing against each other. KMac was playing on his school team and his brother was on what resembled a select team, so that only added fuel to the sibling fire.

There was a play at third base and KMac, with a bit of trickery, was able to apply the tag on his brother for an embarrassing third out.

But there had to be something more.

As he headed to the dugout, he casually-but-purposefully flipped the ball up in the air right in front of his brother, who was dusting himself off at third base.

KMac knew exactly what he was doing.

His brother then picked up the ball and fired it as hard as he could right back at KMac. It was every bit as intentional, but he intentionally didn’t hit his younger brother. Everyone who saw it understood completely what was going on, because that scene had been done hundreds of times in wiffle ball games and driveway basketball games throughout their childhoods.

When he was in Little League, I coached KMac and his teammates to a Little League state championship in, of all places, Bogalusa. As we prepared for the long trip home with trophy in hand, little 9-year-old KMac rolled down the window and I reminded him he was already one-up on his brother in state championships.

I will never, ever forget his smile when he realized that.

KMac was determined to go to the University of New Orleans, but Hurricane Katrina changed those plans. Instead, he went to Louisiana Tech and instantly became the Bulldogs’ most loyal fan. He’d plan his weeks around a basketball or baseball game. After he graduated, he parked in the same spot for football games and let everyone just gravitate his way.

That was KMac . . . loyal as the day is long.

He was loyal to his high school, where he couldn’t wait for the next Old Timers Baseball Game – yes, he was often asked to re-enact that famous third-base scene with his brother – or Alumni Golf Tournament. If you were up for it, he was up for it.

For those of you who never knew KMac, be assured you would have loved him and he would have loved you. And if you check the obituaries, he won’t be hard to find.

Just look for the picture with the big smile. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com