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ESPN article Strength from Weakness

2-Part Series on Ben Petrick's Battle with Parkinson's Disease

Part 1

Part 2

“The same traits that made Ben excel as an athlete are helping him excel today as a person, husband and father. These intimate, revealing and touching accounts of his struggle show what champions are made of.”

— Dr. John Nutt, co-founder and director of the Oregon Health and Science University Parkinson Center of Oregon

“There are men with talent, and men with gifts. Ben had a talent for baseball, but you’ll see his gift is something much, much bigger.”

—  Brian Grant, NBA veteran

“Ben’s stories — particularly ‘Night Becomes Us’ — speaks volumes to me. I thank him for shedding light into my life, and for inspiring me to become a better father.”

—  Brent Butler, MLB veteran

“The final story, ‘Night Becomes Us,’ will have you out of your seat, applauding and wiping tears from your eyes. As a new father, I can’t stop thinking about it.”

— Adam Melhuse, MLB veteran

 

 

“Ben has a voice that needs to be heard. I can relate to so much of his experience with Parkinson’s, as well as being a father and a son. He has a gift for defining the essence of things, both the good and the not-so-good, and his wisdom is priceless.”

—  Davis Phinney, Olympic medalist and Tour de France state winner, author of The Happiness of Pursuit, and founder of the Davis Phinney Foundation

“An inspiration for all.”

— Tracy Ringolsby, Baseball America

“Ben writes with a kind of honesty and grace that both breaks your heart and makes it soar. He makes me want to be not just a better writer, but a better person, as well. Never maudlin, truly inspiring, he and his book are a treasure.”

—  Sharon Randall, nationally syndicated columnist, author of Birdbaths and Paper Cranes

About

Ben Petrick grew up in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he starred in three sports at Glencoe High School. During his senior football season, Ben rushed the Crimson Tide to a state championship, and was selected as Oregon's Offensive Player of the Year, while also being named all-state on defense.

After a baseball season in which he hit .524 with 11 HR, 45 RBI and 22 stolen bases, Ben was taken by the Colorado Rockies in the second round of the 1995 amateur draft. Ben was rated as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball from 1997-1999, and in 1999 he started at catcher in the first All-Star Futures Game at Fenway Park, playing alongside Alfonso Soriano, Mark Mulder, Lance Berkman and Pat Burrell. In September, Ben was called up to the Major Leagues, lacing an RBI double in his first at bat. He finished the season hitting .323 with 4 HR and 12 RBI in just 19 games.

Ben experienced his first symptoms of Parkinson's disease in Fall 1999, and was diagnosed with "Parkinsonism" in May 2000. Ben still managed to play four more big-league seasons for the Rockies and Detroit Tigers, while largely keeping his diagnosis a secret. He experienced more on-field success in 2000, hitting .322 with 3 HR and 20 RBI in 52 games; however, his performance started to slide in 2001, and he was traded to Detroit in mid-2003.

Only when he retired in 2004 did Ben announce publicly that he had Parkinson's disease — the same disease with which his father, Vern, had been living since 1999.

Ben returned to Hillsboro, marrying longtime girlfriend Kellie Starkey, and moving onto the same street where his parents and brother lived. He eventually became primary caregiver to his daughter, Makena, while Kellie taught third grade.

With his Parkinson's symptoms growing worse, in December 2009 Ben elected to undergo a risky and invasive procedure known as Deep Brain Stimulation. Infection that set in as a result of the surgery nearly killed him. Still, Ben courageously underwent the surgery a second time a year later, this time emerging with miraculous results, as his Parkinson's symptoms were lessened to a great degree.

Today, Ben is again active in baseball, coaching at Glencoe High and providing private instruction. He is an advocate for Parkinson's research, traveling the country to speak at various events that benefit the cause.

Ben is a celebrated author, recently publishing the acclaimed 40,000 to One, a collection of stories about his journey. He is also founder of Faith In The Game, a blog containing written submissions by prominent athletes of faith.

Ben lives in Hillsboro, Ore., with his wife and two daughters.