The agonizing and amazing feeling of watching my son, Drew Storen
On the hospital room TV, I was watching the Cubs struggle in Philadelphia. Jamie Moyer was not pitching particularly well, and my thought was that he wasn't going to be a big leaguer for long. It was Aug. 10, 1987. My wife, Pam, wasn't into the game. She didn't particularly like baseball. The fact that she had been in labor for over eight hours might have also played a role. I felt guilt in my soul. It was I who had urged her to delay the delivery of our baby past the first due date of July 25 if she could. She hadn't exactly adored my explanation that the Little League age deadline fell on Aug. 1.
The morning of Aug. 11 came. After an induced labor, allergic reactions to medications, a ton of tears shed (mostly by me) and stunning forceps work by a female obstetrician with biceps the size of Jose Canseco, our 8 pound, 10 ouncer inked a long term deal with the bottom of his feet. We waited to see him to judge if the name we picked would fit. It did. He would never be booed in his life. He would always be able to say the fans weren't booing, they were "Dreeewwwwing." Drew Patrick Storen made his first career appearance.
It was a raw Indiana evening in April of 1993. As the sports director of the CBS television affiliate in Indianapolis, I anchored the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts, then usually headed home to eat dinner before returning to deliver the 11 p.m. scores and highlights. After dinner, Drew and I would head outside to play baseball. Drew would usually be wearing one of the 30 authentic MLB jerseys that Santa had delivered for Christmas, and I would be in my shirt and tie, hitting fungoes, playing catch and throwing batting practice with my TV hair refusing to billow in the breeze.
On this night, though, I was headed to a small elementary school. My five year- old had just finished his first organized T-Ball practice! As I spotted Drew, he was trudging toward me with drooping shoulders. What could have possibly gone wrong? "Dad, I'm the only switch-hitter on my team, so the coach said I could only take BP from one side of the plate, or I would get to hit twice as much as the other kids." He was disgusted. His dad was beaming.
In 2005, Drew's sophomore season, his Brownsburg High School team was 35-0, the Indiana state champions and ranked No. 2 in the country for 2005. Drew wasn't even the team's No. 1 starter. Even I knew the team's ace was much better than my 5-foot-9, 130-pound son. That kid was a senior, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. He threw hard. He had big curve. He was Lance Lynn. Ask somebody in St. Louis how he did after high school.
By this time, I was doing the morning show on the MLB Network at XM Satellite Radio. My partners were former major leaguers Buck Martinez and Larry Bowa. Buck's reputation around baseball was gold, but I did not know what to expect from Bo when we started working together. Turns out, I could not have been luckier to be around two of the best baseball minds in the world. Bo even came to Indianapolis to play in my charity golf outing. While he was in town, he spoke to Drew's high school team as they approached the state tournament. He told them of his world championship with the 1980 Phillies and the lifelong bonds formed among his teammates. He explained to the boys that if they won, they would be linked with one another no matter where their futures took them.
Then Bo took extra time to watch Drew and Lance throw bullpens. There he was, arms crossed, just watching. As they finished, he looked at me, gave me a Larry Bowa sneer and shook his head. My heart sank. "Didn't think that's what I'd see after you talked 'em both up so much." Great. I knew absolutely nothing about baseball, and Larry Bowa was about to tell me so. "Got two future big leaguers right there."
I figured he must be just being polite so that he could get out of there. Turns out, Bo knows. Earlier that spring, Bo and I had been broadcasting our show in Ft. Myers, Fla., at Red Sox camp. Bo was running a verbal baseball clinic as we watched the Red Sox take infield one morning. Everyone's eyes were trained on shortstop Edgar Renteria, who had just signed with Boston in the off-season. But I just loved this tall, thin minor leaguer who was taking ground balls fifth in line behind Renteria. I asked Bo if he'd seen him. "Hanley Ramirez. He's gonna be better than all of 'em."
Dean Nelson embodied the Greatest Generation. It wasn't easy to get him to talk about his experiences fighting under Gen. Patton in the Battle of the Bulge. But it was easy for Dean to talk of his grandkids. Especially Drew Storen. Drew had made Dean and his wife, Ruth, very proud. Why, he had gone to Stanford out of high school instead of signing with the New York Yankees! As proud grandparents, they thought this to be a good choice. A choice that meant they would no longer be able to support their grandson in person, but would instead follow his games through the newspaper and magazine articles their daughter Pam would provide. Ruth would always grab the sports section of the paper first every morning, and share with Dean the news about their grandson. In June of 2011, Ruth lost her battle with Parkinson's Disease.
Drew pitched twice with a heavy heart in Chicago, appearances wrapped around his grandma's death and funeral. Dean was lost without his wife of 63 years. As he neared the end of his life this September, the Nationals were leaving New York after beating the Mets on a Wednesday night. Drew stayed behind and took an early flight out of LaGuardia to Indianapolis. He stayed at Dean's side for several hours and also visited his other grandfather, Pat Storen, who suffers from Parkinson's. Drew caught the flight for Atlanta which departed Indianapolis at 6:50 p.m. He got the news when he called home upon landing. His grandpa had died at 6:51. Had he waited to go until after he saw his grandson?
After pitching a perfect inning against the Braves on Sunday night, Drew flew back to D.C. with the team, arriving home at 4:30 a.m. He caught a 7 a.m. flight for the Indianapolis funeral of his grandfather before returning to D.C. that night. I honestly thought the heavy travel and burden of grief might take their toll when my boy hit the bump. How could he focus? If Drew does succumb to the pressure here, you can bet we won't see any sympathetic posts on Twitter. . .
I can't believe it, yet I can. I keep thinking he must feel the same raging anguish in his appearances that I do. Because, you know, he's my son. But there he is, on TV, acting like it's no big deal. Doesn't he realize he just struck out the side? I hear his mom back in the bedroom; she's yelping. Our Westie is barking at Pam's rare show of emotion. My cell phone is starting to buzz. Of course I saw it! Nationals. Playoffs. First. Time. Ever. The crowd is going bonkers. And they really, seriously, are not booing.