My son Brett, the comeback athlete

In 1992, my wife gave birth to our only child, a red-headed lefty we named Brett. He found his niche early in life and became a baseball player. He went through the Little League system which included four straight years on the All-Star team. The next level after that was playing “club” ball. Brett was a highly sought after lefty pitcher who also batted “clean-up.” He had some great games and we were continually congratulated on the fact that he would be getting lots of scholarship offers when he finished high school.

Then one day life threw Brett a curve ball that he couldn’t hit. He had a seizure; and then another, and then another. I think the word “gut-wrenching” should be defined as “watching your child have a grand mal seizure.” Brett was put on epilepsy medication but the seizures continued. One baseball game Brett hit a home run, had a seizure rounding the bases and was called out at home for not touching third base. I cried hard after that game. When Brett was told by his neurologist that he would not be able to drive a car he decided to have surgery to remove that piece of his brain where the seizures were occurring. We were told he might have a few minor complications afterwards but it would be worth it to be seizure free.

To make a long story short, the neurosurgeon came out after the operation and told us that something had gone wrong. Brett was completely paralyzed on the right side of his body. It was the worst result they had ever had for this kind of surgery. They informed us Brett would not likely walk again and, of course, his baseball career was over. So we hit our knees and Brett hit the rehab room; six days a week up to six hours a day. A year and a half later Brett returned to run for his high school cross-country team. He finished last in all but one race (some kid had an asthma attack … thank you Jesus).

Along the way, Brett made a cool discovery that there was more to life than sports. He got the lead role in a school play, was elected vice president of the student council and also sang in the choir.

In the spring of his senior year, Brett tried out for the varsity baseball team and made it as a relief pitcher. In his four appearances on the mound he had a team best 1.25 ERA and at the end of the season he won the Channel 12 Comeback Athlete of the Year award.

Brett is now a student at ASU studying to be a physical therapist. He wants to help and encourage people who have to go through what he went through.

A week from today he will be riding his bicycle from Seattle to Washington D.C. for a non-profit organization that benefits special needs kids.

I’m not a big tattoo advocate but my son recently got one on his right shoulder blade of a cross with “Phil. 4:13” under it. That verse says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Yes you can, son, yes you can.

• Brad Butler is a PGA golf pro who attends Mountain Park Community Church in Ahwatukee Foothills. He can be reached at

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