This kind of thing happens only in the movies, which is why goosebumps rose on the arms of Bret Nicewaner when he told the story.
Last Thursday, Nicewaner underwent a cardiac catheterization, a procedure that would finally tell him why he couldn’t walk far without becoming short of breath. He would have liked to have scheduled the procedure for a day when his son Jake, a junior at Tecumseh, didn’t have a baseball game — Bret hadn’t missed a game all year — but it didn’t work out this time.
The night before, Bret told Jake not to worry about him and to do his best the next day in a home game against Springboro.
“I’ll always worry about you, Dad,” Jake told him.
At some point in the conversation, Jake told his mom Shelly, who would also miss the game while accompanying her husband to the hospital, that he would hit a home run for her.
“What about me?” Bret said.
“I’ll hit one for you, too,” Jake said.
Jake had two home runs all season and had never hit two in one game, so that was quite the promise. The Arrows, as a team, have 11 home runs in 819 at-bats. That’s one home run every 74 at-bats. No one expected Jake to actually hit two in one game and do it one day after he said he would.
Yet that’s what happened. With his dad in the hospital and Jake’s sister texting updates of the game to their mom so Bret would know what happened as soon as he woke up after the procedure, Jake homered twice in a 7-4 win over Springboro at Tecumseh. After catching all game, he even had the energy to pitch the seventh inning to get the save.
“It was in the back of my mind trying to play for him,” Jake said. “It felt great. I was seeing the ball well. The ball was big. The second one was a no-doubter for sure. The first one I didn’t think it was gone. It was dead center.”
Bret was diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension and is awaiting a medication that should improve his quality of life. He was still a little groggy after the procedure when he found out from Shelly about the home runs.
“I’m just glad his head was in the game and not on me,” Bret said. “They needed him that day.”
Tecumseh has needed Nicewaner even more since its top player, Tony Evans, went down with a torn meniscus. Evans was hitting .423 with 33 RBIs, ranking second in the Central Buckeye Conference in both categories.
The Arrows (23-6) play Lebanon in a Division I sectional final at Centerville High School at 5 p.m. Thursday. The teams met three weeks ago with the Arrows losing 8-7 in nine innings.
Tecumseh and Lebanon split two games last season with Tecumseh winning 10-7 in the regular season and losing 9-8 in the sectional semifinals.
“I think we should have some confidence going into the game,” Tecumseh coach Roger Culbertson said. “We’re familiar with them. This is the fourth game in two years.”
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Reporter Dave Jablonski has covered local sports in Clark and Champaign counties since 2001.