One of the most inspiring speakers in ELGL history is this week’s Knope of the Week. Ben Petrick, former major league player and author of “40,000 to 1”, brought humor (the onesie button struggle), perspective (cherish the day), and inspiration (fighting Parkinson’s) to his presentation at this week’s ELGL forum. These characteristics also come through in the ESPN E:60 profile and the book, “40,000 to 1.” Ben stands along Brian Grant, Michael J. Fox, and Janet Reno in publicly battling Parkinson’s.
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.
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.
What We Learned
Lightning Round Question: What would be your On Deck song? Ben picks Slide by @googoodolls.
Ben’s least favorite sport of the three that he played was basketball – averaged more turnovers than points.
Ben’s minor league travels includes stints with the Asheville Tourists and Carolina Mudcats. Ben has fond memories of bass fishing behind the Carolina Mudcats stadium in Zebulon.
When Ben made it to the major’s, his office was homeplate at Coors Field in Denver.
The highlight of Ben’s MLB career was hitting a home run after Randy Johnson.
Ben was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 22. He kept the diagnosis a secret for several years after. Ben “played through” after his diagnosis, because “he can’t change the facts.” His Parkinson’s diagnosis became his “dirty little secret” when he first got the news.
Ben Petrick ended his career as a Detroit Tiger. He knew his days were numbered when he was given the Number 66 in Spring Training. “When you’re a veteran and you go to spring training and get an offensive lineman’s number it’s not good.”
The biggest struggle in being a father with Parkinson’s – working the “onesie” button on his daughter’s pajamas. Ben has two daughters – a 2 year old and a 6 year old.
One of the biggest disappointments for Ben was not being able to help his daughter when she was born. His daughter would call out for her mom since she knew her dad was not able to help.
Movie recommendation from Ben: Tango. (He clearly has daughters.)
Baseball taught Ben that you have to take each day one at a time. Approach it with fresh eyes.
Ben and Brian Grant have worked together on “Shake It Til We Make” events. Michael J. Fox and Janet Reno are other notables with Parkinson’s.
“Baseball taught me to take every day as it comes.” Good advice for those of is in local government too. “You can’t change what happened yesterday.”
“40,000 to 1” is a self-published book that describes Ben’s life. (It’s a must read!)
Word on the Street
Ken Warner, City of West Linn, Parks and Recreation
My takeaway from Ben Petrick: We all have some type of adversity in our lives. Ben provides us with a positive pathway to work through our adversity and place a true value on those things that are most important. Ben’s ability to share his journey inspires me to see the positives in what I am dealing with n both my professional and personal life.
Ben Kittelson, Metro Public Affairs and Portland State University MPA Student
Ben’s story is so inspiring, the perseverance it took and continues to take for him to battle through Parkinson’s at such an early age is astounding. I remember hearing about and admiring Ben when I was a kid because of his athletic prowess and success. I admired him again this week after learning about his journey and struggles. He had several good quotes or lines that I tweeted, including an offensive line jab, but my favorite was that, baseball taught him to approach each day with fresh eyes and a new outlook – don’t get bogged down in the struggles of yesterday. I thought that was great and is something that anyone can apply in their life. Thanks Ben, great presentation!
Joe Walsh, City of Gresham, Gang Prevention Policy Advisor
I loved the story about helping your daughter in the middle of the night. I will definitely look at it differently the next time one of my kids wakes me up needing something.
Joe Gall, City of Sherwood, City Manager
“Perspective” is a priceless gift – thank you to Ben Petrick for having the courage to share his story and strength. Cannot wait to read his book!
Russell Bither-Terry, UNC Ph.D
I was struck by his great use of humor, such as his remark that onesie buttons are impossible even if you don’t have Parkinson’s.
Sara Doughty, City of Tigard, Public Works
Ben has humility and persistence in the face of adversity. A strength of character I would be proud to imitate.
Kirsten Wyatt, City of West Linn, Assistant City Manager
Ben reminded us that we have a choice every day to live life to the fullest or to let the small stuff get us down. We can all gain a lot of perspective from Ben as we approach our local government jobs.
Angela Handran, City of Wilsonville, Administration
What an inspirational message today! Thank you so much for bringing Ben to our group. I had two big take always, first, life has a way of changing courses on you when you least expect it. You can either sit in the corner and feel sorry for yourself, or you can adjust your course and rise above the challenges. Second, have fun. When Ben said this, it was what I needed to hear. I can get so focused on my career and where I am going with it, my responsibilities, and just life in general that I forget to have fun.
Kent Wyatt, City of Tigard, Senior Management Analyst
Ben is a testament to perseverance. His drive was incredible before Parkinson’s and is even more so after the diagnosis. He’s committed to raising a family, being an active participant in the battle against Parkinson’s, and sharing his story to give motivation and hope to others. His daughters are going to be blown away when they are old enough to recognize how much good their dad was done. Ben’s book and the ESPN feature on Ben highlight his triumphs.
Carol Krager, City of Tigard, Administrative Services
“Each day get a little stronger about getting a little weaker.” I thought that reflected a good attitude about the balance needed when you do not have control over a progressive illness.
Ben Petrick shows perseverance in battle
Former Rockies catcher Petrick battles Parkinson’s
Parkinson’s Benches Petrick, But He’s Still Not Out