For Mike Olt, June 7, 2018 was shaping up to be another routine day. The Pawtucket Red Sox were slated to host Louisville with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. The odds were pretty that Olt would be hitting somewhere in the middle of manager Kevin Boles’ lineup.
Then came a distressing phone call from his father George. Olt’s mother Beverly was on her way to Yale New Haven Hospital after suffering a brain aneurysm. Surgery was scheduled for that afternoon.
“I was probably gone in about two minutes,” Olt said while recently sitting in the home dugout at McCoy Stadium. “Luckily I didn’t hit any traffic and got to the hospital just in time.”
A native of Bradford, Conn. and a product of the UConn baseball program, Olt will forever be grateful that he was in the vicinity as Beverly underwent the fight of her life. Had he learned about his mom’s condition while the PawSox were on the road … who knows how many hoops he would have been forced to jump through so he could make it to be by Beverly’s side.
“It was a Nerve-racking time. You never want to see one of your parents go through something like that,” Olt said, “but family comes first.”
Olt was away from the PawSox for three days. On Sunday, June 10, his name was listed on the lineup card posted on the bulletin board in the clubhouse – batting sixth and playing first base. Roughly 45 minutes before the scheduled 1:35 p.m. first pitch against Indianapolis, Olt walked in and pronounced he was ready to resume playing baseball.
Before departing from Connecticut, Olt had talked to his mom. In a move that Olt said was completely out of character, he promised Mrs. Olt that he would hit a home run for her.
“She said, ‘Hit me two,’” Olt said.
In the third inning, Olt made true on his pledge when he turned on a 3-1 curveball and sent it into the Pawtucket bullpen in left field for a three-run homer. Through Tuesday, Olt has appeared in 806 games between the majors and minors and over that span has amassed 131 round trippers.
No matter how the 29-year-old’s career turns out, the blast that came mere days after Beverly’s surgery will go down as the most significant given the circumstances. As a bonus, Olt was able to successfully retrieve the home run ball. It’s still perched on a shelf in his McCoy locker with Olt planning to make a special delivery to his mom once the 2018 season is complete.
“I definitely tried to hit another (home run) those next couple of at-bats,” Olt said.
All told, Beverly Olt was in the hospital for three weeks before getting transferred to a rehab facility where she’s currently staying. It’ll be a while before she can return home. When she’s up for a conversation with her pro baseball-playing son, Olt will cue up the FaceTime feature on his iPhone.
“She’s being eased back in,” Olt said. “She has her moments where she does really well and others where she’s not doing as great. It fluctuates. It’s baby steps for the most part.”
The true rock of the Olt family, the person who keeps Olt and his three brothers in the loop on a daily basis via group text messages, is George.
“My dad is a trooper. He’s by her side every day and keeps everyone well informed,” Olt said. “He’s making it easier for me to come out and do this. He knows how important [playing baseball] is to me.”
The strength that allowed Olt to get through such a traumatic time in his mother’s life was made possible due to Mrs. Olt suffering from the same health issue nearly three years earlier. Beverly had made a full recovery from her first brain aneurysm scare – there was no memory loss and her speech didn’t suffer.
Then came a relapse that caught everyone by a total surprise.
“We weren’t expecting anything to happen,” Olt said. “Obviously things can reoccur, but she was so strong that it came out of nowhere.”
Having been down this trying road with his mom once before, Olt was better equipped to handle the corresponding highs and lows while maintaining focus on baseball. It’s common to see him laid out on his back in the outfield for his traditional pregame meditation session that began last season in Portland. Olt chalks it up to taking a quick nap, yet there’s no denying the profound impact that setting aside a few moments for peace and quiet has had in helping him put his personal and professional life into proper perspective.
“If I was in this situation during my mom’s first brain aneurysm, I wouldn’t have been able to come back and complete the season. That was really tough,” Olt said. “Being able to talk to her and hear her say, ‘Good luck and go get ’em’ made it much easier to go back to the ballpark. She still has a long way to go and a lot to worry about, but at least I’m close to home and she’s got a great support system.”
Drafted by the Texas Rangers in 2010 in the supplemental round (pick No. 49 overall), Olt has appeared in 135 MLB games over three seasons with the Rangers, Chicago Cubs, and the Chicago White Sox. He was signed by the Red Sox as a minor-league free agent in February 2017 and spent last season with Double-A Portland. After opening the 2018 campaign on Portland’s roster, Olt was promoted to Pawtucket on April 10. As of this writing, the corner infielder leads the PawSox in home runs (11) and walks (44).
During the recent three-day Triple-A All-Star break, Olt was able to spend quality time with his mom. He’s someone who always seems upbeat and has emerged as one of the true good guys on this year’s Pawtucket ballclub. You would never know that he’s been forced to contend with personal family struggles.
Then again, Mrs. Olt wouldn’t want her son to worry about her to the detriment of hitting curveballs and fastballs. That’s peace of mind that Mike Olt knows you can’t put a price tag on.
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