KODAK, Tenn. — The Smokies Baseball team is rejoicing at the return of their biggest fan — 14-year-old Mason 'NooDy' Millsaps.
He couldn't contain his excitement either. As his family pulled off Exit 407 into Kodak, he immediately started singing "Go Cubs Go." His mom and dad, Carrie and Wesley, said it's part of their routine coming to the ballpark.
"He's so excited. I think he got up at six o'clock this morning," said Carrie Millsaps, NooDy's mom.
It's a routine they've missed for the past week. On July 15, the family's van was stolen off of I-40. So was NooDy's red stroller and sentimental baseball glove.
The family was heading back from a Smokies game when their red van started to break down. They pulled off to the side of the road and had to get a ride home. They came back the next day and the car was gone.
The family had to miss the rest of the Smokies games that weekend.
The Millsaps' van and specialized stroller were eventually recovered, and suspects were identified thanks to tipsters, according to the East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers.
However, the family said the van was not usable after it was recovered. They said that the van's engine was blown, the radiator was ruined and the tires were replaced. The back end was also smashed, the family said.
They said the stroller was not in the vehicle, but after the thieves were questioned police were able to find it in a wooded area.
The baseball glove was also recovered a few days later by some hunters in the woods. NooDy was able to pick up his bat bag and glove at the Knoxville Police Department on Monday.
"Had our community not cared as much as they did we would not have these things back. I’m eternally grateful to have Mason’s personal belongings," Carrie said in a Facebook post.
While the van was a loss, the community did not let the family down. Friends, family, and other community members raised more than $10,000 for the family to get a new car.
The family didn't have to look far for the perfect fit.
"We were able to get a car from George, the PA announcer here. We met this year while playing trivia during the offseason," Carrie said. "He messaged me and told me he had a car that he possibly wanted to sell us if we were interested."
George Yardley has been the stadium's public address announcer for 24 years. He said he loves watching NooDy's enthusiasm at the park.
"NooDy has been a longtime fan," George said. "His parents bring him and he's just very, very enthusiastic about his love for the game."
Carrie said Yardley offered to sell them his car for a lower price.
"It was a 2011 car, newer than any car we've ever had. And we got there and picked it up yesterday," Carrie said.
NooDy was also very excited about the new used car.
"We looked at the car as a beautiful car. And, we jumped on it," said NooDy's dad, Wesley. "As soon as we did, the first thing Mason said was, 'Baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball.' He knew it was time to go to baseball again."
So, Carrie, Randy, and 'NooDy' Millsaps drove from their home in Madisonville all the way to Kodak Tuesday night for the game. Although the drive is almost 2 hours long, it's one of their favorite things to do as a family. It means they're headed to a Smokies baseball game, which Carrie said is NooDy's 'happy place.'
"It's exciting. It happened a lot quicker than I thought it would. So I mean, I'm just so thankful for everybody," Carrie said.
The stadium is glad to have them back, too.