Forty Thousand To One
By Ben Petrick
In a fantastic book Ben Petrick takes us through his life as a kid growing up, a high school football star, a professional baseball player, a husband, and a father while dealing with Parkinson's disease. While the book is relatively short (147 pages with fairly large text) it is heartwarming and encouraging while showing the trials he went through.
Growing up he was the best athlete in Hilsboro, Oregon and at the age of 6 out ran his brother (10 yo) after a prank. In 1994, as a senior, Ben led his high school football team to the state championship and followed that up with a senior baseball season that got him drafted in the second round by the Colorado Rockies. Noted as a catcher with six tools, because he could handle a pitching staff, by Clint Hurdle, Petrick moved up the system fast for a high school kid making his debut in 1999 with an RBI double in his first MLB at bat.
Shortly after that Petrick would start feeling tremors in his hands and while typing his left hand would not do what it was supposed to. He was diagnosed with Parkinsonism because the doctor had never seen a 22 year old with actual Parkinson's disease before. His diagnosis came just 7 months after his father had been diagnosed with Parkinson's. He hid this from many people, including the team's medical staff, by taking medication for the next 4 years. But this was only the beginning as he would struggle to hit and catch the way he knew he should. After being traded to the Tigers in 2003 and released in 2004 he retired, finally acknowledging, publically, that he had Parkinson's disease.
The book continues through his struggles at home with different medications and self-doubt. How can a person who was on track to become the best player his city has ever seen come home with a degenerative disease? He says he left as a hero and came back with everyone pitying him. Ben got married and continued to struggle, not wanting to have a family because he didn't want to have them suffer. His father, on a trip to Denver, confessed that it wasn't fair and the younger Petrick's should try to live a normal life regardless of the circumstances. In 2007 he had a daughter, the One, in the title.
He discusses his trials trying to raise a daughter alone while his wife, Kelly, is a teacher. He takes her to dance or other events and cannot move because he is "off." Ben decides to get a deep brain stimulation procedure to alleviate some of the Parkinson's symptoms and allow himself a normal life, but the surgery goes wrong and a week later he's suffering seizures and almost dying.
It's a great read and gives a wonderful perspective of a gifted man playing baseball at a level that is near impossible, let alone with Parkinson's disease, in front of 40,000 fans, to end up only wanting one thing, to be able to take care of his daughter and be there for his family.
The money quote, for me, in the whole book was this:
"I din't have surgery so I could go back to who I was. I did it so I could become the best version of whoever I was to be." ~Ben Petrick
Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there (mine included) and to Mr. Ben Petrick. Thanks for a great book.