One Life to Live

He came to the plate limping. Both legs were in bad shape, the reason he had been absent from the first game of the World Series until now. A few moments earlier he was not even in the dugout. He was in the clubhouse, getting treatment. Yet here he was, limping to the plate, the bottom of the ninth, two outs, down by one, the tying run on first, the chance to win the game in both the most absurd of manners and the most storybook, the kind of moment children dream about. He was a gruff-looking man from outside of Detroit, a Bob Seger song in uniform, and the potential Dodger antidote to the mighty Oakland Athletics. Until it was clear he was too hurt to play. Nobody expected him to make it to home plate and stare down one of the greatest closers in baseball. The sun had long set on Los Angeles, and beyond the fences of Dodger Stadium, red taillights lit up the darkness. But Kirk Gibson was still alive, even with two strikes against him, and when he sent that little white ball soaring into the night, he pumped his arm as he rounded the bases, collecting on his winning home run and the greatest sports moment in Los Angeles baseball history.

More than 20 years later, as a major league manager, it is still how he is remembered. And it is still the first thing Corey Reich ’08 thinks of when they meet in another baseball stadium.

“You ruined my childhood,” Corey says.

No doubt, there is a glimmer in Corey’s eyes when he speaks this. There often is. And maybe because that glimmer now accompanies slower speech, an often-serene demeanor, and wide smile, it makes you feel as if you are in on any joke he tells. It’s part of the warmth and humor his face conveys almost effortlessly, which seems to disarm any potentially uncomfortable encounter.

Gibson, of course, doesn’t miss a beat.

“You must be from Oakland,” he says.

 

Piedmont, actually; though for all intents and purposes you could consider it Oakland. It is a small Northern California enclave, bordered by Oakland on all sides, and only a 20-or-so-minute ride to the Oakland Coliseum. Piedmont is a tight-knit community of about ten thousand mostly affluent residents, where Corey lived with his family before Middlebury, where he lives with them now after, and where he serves as the assistant coach for the local high school tennis team on which he once played.

Sports have always been a big part of Corey’s life. He is 25 years old, with dark curly hair, broad shoulders, and a generally athletic build that once saw him ski racing every winter, playing competitive tennis in high school, and being able to grab the rim of a 10-foot basketball hoop. He moved with ease. Which makes it all the more strange to him that he can remember the last time he actually ran. It was at Middlebury, after an intramural softball game, his friends dogging him, saying that he had gotten slower. So he challenged them to a sprint across a parking lot. He still beat some of them, but he wasn’t running as well as he used to.

Now, he has trouble walking. His muscles are weak. He uses a cane sometimes, a wheelchair on other occasions, and knows a day will come when he will be entirely dependent on the chair. His speech is slurred, and his hands are curled so that he cannot write and needs help cutting his food. When he does walk, he moves slowly, unsteadily, holding on to things. Sometimes he falls.

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