Atlanta, Ga. -- Ishmael Arnold, as his family scrambled out of their home during the May floods that hit Nashville, Tenn., went back in to rescue something special.
The 11-year-old, with water up to his chest, salvaged his baseball equipment.
Arnold's move and dedication to baseball inspired Rays shortstop Ben Zobrist, who lives in Nashville in the offseason, to invite him to Atlanta for Wednesday night's game.
Arnold left with more stuff.
Zobrist gave him a glove, hooked up him with a Rays hat, a bat and ball, and a set of Tampa Bay wristbands. He also took Arnold through Tampa Bay's clubhouse introducing him to the Rays and got him on the field during batting practice.
"It's really the least I could so," Zobrist said. "It was great to host him for this game and enjoy seeing him in that experience."
Arnold has become a mini-celebrity in the Nashville area, said Reggie Whittemore. Whittemore is the director of Nashville's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, of which Arnold is a member.
"The community has fallen in love with him," Whittemore said. "It's a great story for anybody who is a baseball fan."
Arnold said he wasn't sure what made him go back in his house as the waters kept rising. It just clicked that he should.
"I said I had to go back in," the pitcher/first baseman said. "I don't know why."
Arnold doesn't have a favorite major league team, so maybe he's found one.
"We're trying to build that Rays foundation in the Nashville area," Zobrist joked.
Zobrist volunteers every offseason for the Nashville RBI program's annual coaching clinic.
"I hope he keeps that stuff, remembers this experience and it fuels his passion for the game," Zobrist said. "You can go somewhere in this game if you play hard and work at it.
"I think he got a glimpse of that."
A. Stacy Long, The Montgomery Advertiser