By Tim Kurkjian
My older brother, Matt, is my best friend, and the strongest person I have ever met. We were born in the same year, just 11 months apart, and immediately inseparable. My parents sent me to kindergarten a year early because they couldn’t imagine separating us. We were in some of the same classes in school, we played on the same sports teams, and since we were five years old, we shared a love of baseball. One of our favorite movies as kids was the Lou Gehrig story, “The Pride of the Yankees.” We watched that movie dozens of times.
On July 11, 2021, I was nominated for the Career Excellence Award by the Baseball Writers Association of America. It was an incredibly proud moment for me and my family — we grew up in baseball, and perhaps the only people to whom the honor meant more were my father, my mother and my brothers.
But the greatest day of my professional life was followed by the worst day of my life. The very next day, Matt was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. I can’t say — or write — those words without crying. Our family is devastated. Matt is the ringleader of our extended family, the adhesive that holds everyone together.
And yet, every time I break down, I look at my brother, who is 66 years old and is fighting this wretched disease every day without complaint, without pity, without tears. His speech is affected, but he can still command a room with his storytelling. His mobility is affected, but he still mowed his lawn until early April. His dexterity is affected, but he recently stood on a chair and repaired a mangled curtain. His positive attitude has always been his greatest asset, and it has been crucial through this ordeal. There are days when I need to be strong, and I’m not, but when Matt sees my pain, he rests his hand on my shoulder and says, “Tim-o, don’t worry about me. I’m a happy guy every day.”
He has always been at his happiest when he was with family, or playing baseball, which often was one and the same. Baseball was the primary language spoken in our house as a kid. My dad, Jeff, was a really good player. He taught his three sons to play the game, and to love the game. My mom, Joy, became a convert as she shuttled her boys from field to field.