After family tragedy, couple connects with Justin Turner
By Cary Osborne
It started with an Instagram post by lifestyle blogger Jacqui Saldana.
It read: “It’s time for dodger baseball w/my very own Justin Turner!!”
Turner was tagged in the post.
And to the young Pasadena couple’s surprise, he responded.
“Looks like we have some planning to do!!! @court_with_a_k and I would love to meet you and host you guys at a game!! #BrothaFromAnothaMotha”
Dan Saldana, Jacqui’s husband and a lifelong Dodger fan, looks so much like the Dodger third baseman that he was working out at the gym once and a little boy started recording him with the thought that it was Turner.
It wasn’t the resemblance that moved Turner and his girlfriend Kourtney to respond. They knew of the story that rocked the Saldanas’ world. So they reached out.
In May 2014, Jacqui and Dan’s son Ryan, just 3 years old, was hit and killed by a truck while playing outside of his cousins’ house.
The Saldanas used to take Ryan to Dodger games often. He liked sports. He was very active. When daddy came home from work, he would want to go outside and hit. He loved cooking with mommy in the kitchen. He loved Disneyland. His hair was long and curly — red of course, like daddy and like Turner.
Days after the tragedy, a Saldana family friend posted a memory of the boy with a hashtag #redballoonsforryan. It went viral. There was an outpouring of support for the family from all points of the country. TV news and newspapers — even one of the most well known British newspapers The Daily Mail picked up the story.
It was five weeks ago that Jacqui wrote the post on her Instagram account. Turner and his girlfriend remembered them.
They have been trading emails with the Saldanas the last five weeks to set a date to come to Dodger Stadium as guests. Friday became the day. It was sealed by an email with the subject line that read: “Ginger Twins Meetup.”
“The comment on Instagram was enough and when Jacqui and Kourtney were emailing back and forth it started to sink in that this could actually happen,” Dan said. “For someone from a team I followed my entire life to reach out like that took us aback. To know there are still people out there who do care and are interested in doing good for others (is special).”
“We come to games all the time and we’re fans,” Jacqui said. “We idolize them and for them to break down that barrier and they come at us like real genuine people just re-instills our faith in this amazing team.”
The Saldanas were guests of Turner and were treated to on-field pregame passes and met him for the first time prior to Friday’s game.
“It took our breath away,” Jacqui said of meeting Turner.
“Once we got past the first introduction it was like talking to someone you’ve known forever,” Dan said.
Turner set the parents up with two of the best seats in the house.
Yes, they’re parents again. They have a 6-month-old daughter named Mila who looks just like Ryan, who they continue to be inspired by.
“It’s been two years and it’s been a roller coaster,” Jacqui said. “It’s hell on earth, but I think with the power of our son we’re able to keep going. When you lose a parent you become an orphan. And when you lose a husband or a wife you become a widow. But when you lose a child there is really no word. It’s our parent duty to live for him. He was 3 years old and wild and amazing, and there’s no way he wants to look at us sad and depressed. And we’ve done a lot of great things in the name of our son.”