A baseball heart-to-heart

Two baseball players had a video chat over the internet. One was Randy Dobnak, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. The second was Brody, a 12-year-old patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Two baseball players had a video chat over the internet.

One was Randy Dobnak, a pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. The second was Brody, a 12-year-old patient at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They immediately started talking about pitching.

Brody

Brody and his mom, Lisa

Randy Dobnak

Randy Dobnak with his wife, Aerial, on a Zoom chat with St. Jude patient Brody.

If the stay-at-home orders come to an end and life returns to normal this summer, Brody will pitch at a youth tournament in Cooperstown, New York, home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Randy pitched in the same tournament when he was 12.

They talked about taking batting practice with their dads, what Randy likes to eat before games (a big breakfast, then a snack shortly before game time), and who Brody’s favorite player is, other than Randy, of course. It’s Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs.

They were joined on the call by Randy's wife, Aerial, and Lisa, Brody’s mom.

Lisa shared Brody’s story from not feeling well to a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia to treatment at St. Jude.

Aerial, a nurse, shared how she “always dreamed of one day working at St. Jude.”

Aerial and Randy married last year. For their wedding, they started a fundraiser for St. Jude and raised more than $4,000. In January, they flew to Memphis to meet with patients and learn more about how to support the St. Jude mission.

“If there’s any way we can use Randy’s platform to reach more people and talk about St. Jude and what it does and how it helps all of these kids, we’re willing to do whatever we can,” Aerial said.

Randy’s baseball career has followed an unlikely path. More than 1,200 players are drafted by major league teams each summer. Randy wasn’t one of them. Undrafted guys don’t often make the majors. They wind up playing for teams like the Utica Unicorns. Yes, that’s a real team. They play in the United Shore Professional Baseball League. Yes, that’s a real league.

Randy pitched for Utica and drove an Uber for extra money. The Minnesota Twins signed him for $2,000, one of the smallest signing bonuses possible in the sport. Two years later, he was the winning pitcher in the game that clinched a division title for Minnesota, and started in a playoff game against the New York Yankees.

It’s the stuff kids dream of at their local ball fields.

Life changes in a hurry, for better and for worse. When it changes for the better, we all have a chance to reach out and help someone who had theirs change for the worse.

Baseball is on hold for everyone right now. From major leaguers like Randy to 12-year-olds like Brody. During a weekend when the Twins were supposed to be playing in front of thousands of hometown fans against the Oakland A’s, Randy and Aerial used the time to bring joy to one fan instead.

As they signed off, Randy told Brody to keep playing the game for as long as he can.

“I kept playing and crazy things happened,” Randy said. “Really crazy things happened.”

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