With 9 minutes, 31 seconds left in the first quarter of the Philadelphia Eagles’ opener at Washington earlier this month, quarterback Michael Vick glanced over to the sideline to get the next play.
While coach Chip Kelly spoke into Vick’s headset, assistant R.J. Harvey fanned out a series of colored blades and held them up for Vick and center Jason Kelce to see.
Jill Cakert’s phone buzzed and she read a text message from her nephew, Jonathan Cakert, that read, “Signalfan in play.”
The Ventnor native looked up at her TV, saw the Eagles’ coach brandishing her invention, and screamed.
“We had some people over watching the game with us and when we all saw it, we started hugging and crying,” Cakert said in a phone interview. “It was crazy. I’ve never been so happy. I’m still riding the high.”
Hours earlier, Cakert had been crying for a different reason.
Earlier that morning, the Atlantic City High School graduate had attended the funeral and burial of her mother, Edith Sherman, who passed away Sept. 7 at age 92.
Later that evening, physically and emotionally exhausted, she returned to her Ventnor home, sank onto her couch with her son, Doug, husband, Buck, and other family and friends, and turned on the Eagles’ game against the Redskins.
“I was supposed to be at FedEx Field with my cousin (Jonathan), but obviously I couldn’t go to the game,” Doug Cakert said in a phone interview. “He was sitting up in the cheap seats and noticed that they were using my mom’s Signalfan. That’s when he sent the text.
“We’re not a real emotional family. But when it was shown on TV, we all started screaming. We needed something like that after such a difficult day.”
Jill Cakert invented the Signalfan in 2007. A former standout softball player for Atlantic City and Temple University, she was looking for a way to make it easier for batters to see signals from the third-base coach.
She created a device that features six 11-inch blades, which are colored black, blue, green, red, white and yellow. The blades are held together with a screw and unfold like a fan. Baseball and softball coaches could use various combinations of blades to signify different plays such as bunts and steals.
Over the years, it became popular among field hockey and softball coaches. She even sold one to a high school football coach in Texas.
She sent one to Kelly on Aug. 27 after noticing the new Eagles coach was using giant placards with pictures of things like cheesesteaks, Rocky and the Liberty Bell to send signals from the sideline.
If I ever saw this used in a baseball game, I would puke. That said, I suspect, in the near future, baseball batters and runners will be wearing wrist bands that receive visual signals/instructions from the coaches and/or managers – eliminating the need for signals from the base coaches. Pitchers and catchers? There, it will take longer for them to break away from the tradition and current signal system.