Playing for his brother

Ryan Rivers left town last spring, determined to make it to the big leagues. He said he owed it to his big brother, Neil, who was murdered in 2006 outside his family's Essex home during a botched robbery.

Never mind that Rivers was a 35th round pick of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2010 and the 1,074th player picked in the draft. As Ryan sat at the kitchen table, sharing his story, I sensed in this 21-year-old a resolve rarely seen in one that age.

His mom, Kim Rivers, studied him from across the room. "Now, the Angels have two of my sons," she murmured.

I jotted down that telling quote and wrote the piece, only to learn something afterward that gave me goosebumps. Several days later, after Ryan's departure, his father was cleaning the basement when he spotted a cardboard box filled with old baseball caps from the kids' rec league days.

"One of those hats caught my eye," said Neil Rivers, Sr. He picked up the red one and stared at it -- an Angels' cap, brand new, its cardboard lining intact.

To this day, the Rivers' have no idea how the Angels' hat got there. None of their three sons ever played for a team of that name. Moreover, the cap was the only new one in the box.

"It was really odd, that particular cap being there," Neil Rivers said.

He left it at that.

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