(Photo courtesy of Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics)
In order to understand the significance of the at-bat, I think I need to start way back at the beginning of my relationship with my Mom. To say we've been close our entire lives is an understatement, because she looked after me even before that.
In the months before I was born, my Mom would rest a musical box on her belly and play Amazing Grace. She would wind up the little toy piano and play that song all the time for me.
She played that song as long as I can remember, but my Mom's faith in God went way beyond a simple hymn. She and my Dad set a tremendous example of hard work and doing things the right way. And most of all, they showed me what unconditional love looks like.
My Mom loved to spend her time quilting and riding horses, but when it came time to taking care of me and my brothers, she put all of her interests to the side. I don't know if I realized back then the sacrifices she was making, but she was always driving us around from one practice to another. And everytime I was stepping up to the plate, she was sitting in the stands with her trademark "knock the snot out of it".
My Mom was just one of those people who lived life to the fullest. Which is why it was so hard to see her go through ALS.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, is a brutal disease. ALS relentlessly strips a person of their muscles. Of their mobility. Of the dignity to use the bathroom by themselves. But there are two things ALS cannot do.
It cannot take away a person's happiness. And it cannot take away a person's faith in God.
As heartbreaking as it was to see my Mom go through ALS, it was amazing to see the way everyone responded. My Mom set the standard with the way she continued to smile, and the rest of us tried to do our part. My father dropped everything to be there for her.
When I talk about my Dad's work ethic, and how he applied that to taking care of my Mom, I feel like I'm at a loss for words. It's hard to describe the man my Dad is, but he is just a tremendous example of the man I want to be.
My brothers also helped out, but I think the biggest surprise was how many people outside our family were willing to pitch in. My Mom had about seven or eight friends that would come to the house and do whatever they could to ease my Mom's suffering. They would stay overnight, or sometimes arrive at 2 in the morning....whatever my Mom needed, they were there.
Those gestures were so inspirational to me. I tried to do my part to help, but sometimes there was only so much I could do while playing over 2,000 miles away in St. Louis.
So I did what I felt was the right thing for me to do. I asked the Cardinals front office for a trade to be closer to my family in Pleasanton, California. And the Cardinals, to their credit, granted my request and traded me to the A's.
The sacrifices my family made were expected. I didn't have to ask my siblings or Dad to do the right thing. But for other people in the community or the Cardinals front office, those were people who didn't have to do anything and helped anyway. I am so thankful the Cardinals granted my request, because when I moved back home, I realized just how much adversity my Mom was facing.