ELYRIA — In a long-overdue development, a local man finally proved Wednesday that nice guys really can finish first.
Samuel Ross thought it was weird, being asked to come into Discount Drug Mart for a customer survey.
But it was on his way home from work and he’s a helpful guy, so he swung by the store that was so recently the scene of his near-fortune.
On that fateful day in April, Ross had stopped by to pay a bill and grabbed a chocolate milk on impulse before heading to the cashier, when suddenly employees holding bunches of balloons and an oversized yellow check appeared. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the store handed a $5,000 check to its 50th customer of the day — who just happened to be the guy in line right in front of Ross.
Ross, 36, politely clapped for the winner and chalked it up to a series of not-quite-first-place finishes in life.
So he wasn’t really thinking his luck was about to change when he showed up Wednesday, making his way to the courtesy desk at the back of the store as instructed.
And that is when Ross stepped into the winner’s circle.
What he didn’t notice was the chain’s spokeswoman hiding a couple aisles down with a handful of balloons, waiting for his arrival.
Company employees stepped out from their hiding places to greet Ross and ask him if he was a Cleveland Indians fan.
“Oh, Cleveland sports all the way,” he agreed.
He then learned he would receive four club seats to an Indians-Cincinnati Reds game next week and the best part ever: Not only would he attend, but he would be throwing out the first pitch.
That last part buckled his knees.
“This is the coolest thing that ever happened to me. Wow! Just wow,” Ross said, trying to absorb his good fortune. “I never even thought of this. Never in my life did I think I’d have a chance to throw out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball game, and especially the Indians.”
The idea percolated with company officials after reading a story in The Chronicle-Telegram last month about Ross’ lifelong runner-up status. The story detailed how a Chronicle photographer captured the $5,000 winner with Ross in the background. When the story was posted on social media, respondents quickly pointed out that another Chronicle photo a few years ago also had captured Ross — again, second in line.
Amanda Akin, Drug Mart’s marketing specialist, proposed the idea to Amy Castelli of Castelli Media Group, which handles the chain’s media relations, and the company landed on an idea: Lure Ross to the store under a pretense and offer him the dream of a Tribe fan’s lifetime. For good measure, they threw in a $100 gift card, so he could buy all the chocolate milk he wants.
Ross said just before coming to the store he had filled his prescription for blood pressure medications at another Drug Mart location and he was thankful he had, after hearing of his surprise.
He plans to take his dad and his nephew to the game and he feels “pretty sure he’ll work something out” for the fourth ticket. Ross plans to practice his pitching before the game.
“It’s been a while, but I think I can do it,” he said.