Ten years ago this season, Tike Redman was living the dream. He played center field and led off for Lloyd McClendon's Pirates on Opening Day in 2004 at PNC Park, going 2-for-4 and doubling off Kevin Millwood to score Craig Wilson with the first run of the season in a 2-1 victory over the Phillies. It was the first of 155 games Redman played that year.
"It was my total dream," Redman recalls. "I felt like I was really on top of the world then."
Those are the kinds of stories that a Major League Baseball player would love to sit back and regale upon others through the golden years to follow. But things didn't go quite as Julian Jawonn Redman imagined after that.
There went the knees, there went the hamstring, there went the lower back, there went the turf toe -- one thing after another as six more organizations and fleeting hopes quickly came and went.
There went Jalyn, the oldest child of Tike and Lesley Redman, to the hospital one day for a biopsy that would show bone cancer in her shoulder. There went the days, the weeks, the months of chemo and surgery, fear and courage. There went the 401K, there went Lesley's career as a hairdresser and salon owner, there went the life you expected.
On Tuesday night, the Redmans and their three children -- Jalyn, Imani and Justus -- will be at the Marriott Marquis in New York for the 25th annual Going to Bat for B.A.T. Dinner. They will be guests of true honor. MLB's Baseball Assistance Team program came to their rescue in the family's darkest hour, providing a year's worth of mortgage and utilities, making it possible for Jalyn to receive the kind of care that has led to a cancer-free life, making it possible for a family to not only pull through an impossible time, but also to somehow shine brightly as a beacon of hope for others.
B.A.T. officials announced that the dinner will go on as scheduled despite a snowstorm hitting Manhattan. The first Commissioner Bud Selig Leadership Award will be presented at the dinner, to the award's namesake in recognition of his longtime support of B.A.T. The B.A.T. Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented posthumously in the name of former Players Association chief Michael Weiner. Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins will receive the Big B.A.T./Frank Slocum community award.
"Tike and Lesley Redman called the B.A.T. office in June 2011 and we immediately sent them a grant application," said B.A.T. executive director Erik Nilsen. "Their case was reviewed during the next Grant Committee meeting, where it was decided by our Grant Committee to assist them with their mortgage and monthly utility bills while they regrouped and got back on their feet. Tike and Lesley have gone through so much in the past couple of years. This all would not have been possible without the support from the current day players through the MLB Payroll Deduction Program and sponsors of the annual 'Going to Bat for B.A.T.' Fundraising Dinner."
Today, Lesley is executive director of the national organization Foundation for Children with Cancer, making sure parents who are going through what the Redmans went through have a possible financial resource to help in that darkest hour. Today, Tike is coaching a 13-year-old traveling team in the Atlanta area and working at nights to give baseball instruction.
"I would tell the kids today, work hard," Tike said. "Whatever you do -- rapper, basketball player, any kind of athlete or R&B -- make sure you work hard and never take it for granted at all. Don't get the big head and think you're on top of the world and nothing can knock you down. ... Whatever knocks you down, get back up. Never give up, please never give up."
Michelangelo once said: "A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it."
Well, of course. Lesley's line of work was making people look beautiful, making others notice them. In 2004, when Tike was living the dream, they met in Milwaukee. She was "behind the chair" and also managing a salon there, a single mom to Jalyn at the time.
"I made a nice income. Jalyn and I did well for ourselves," Lesley said.
Lesley and Tike married in 2007, and in December 2008 they had their first baby together, daughter Imani.
"After Imani was born, the doctor said to just be careful of Jalyn having been an only child, and might need extra attention with a new baby in the house," Lesley said. "I would tuck her in at night and ask her what was the best and worst part of the day."
In February 2009, at home in Wisconsin, Lesley heard and saw the pain in her daughter. Had she not been so attuned, who knows what would have happened?
"Jalyn said she had pain in her shoulder. She said, 'I can't do the pull-up in gym class. My arm hurts when I'm in gym, can you please write me a pass?' She was in fifth grade. So we went ahead and did that.
"Every couple of days, she would talk about how her shoulder hurt her. Finally she was playing Wii, the interactive game with a controller, and she started crying that she did a movement and her shoulder hurt her. In Wisconsin, it was cold -- with layers, she had a hooded sweatshirt -- and when I took it off, it looked like a tennis ball was protruding out of her shoulder. It looked like it was dislocated. She had to have done something. She couldn't tell me a specific event. So that was intriguing to me, I didn't know how to wrap my head around that, and I just made a doctor appointment for the next day."
Then life took a turn for the worse. Tike's pain, which by now had pretty much ended his dream, was put in perspective.
"When we went in, she [the doctor] started asking me questions about Jalyn's diet. 'Was she lethargic?' I'm like, 'Why is she asking me stupid questions? Just pop the shoulder back in place.' She scheduled an X-ray, the nurses are leaving, the front desk people are shutting off lights, we're sitting in this dark waiting room, then the doc comes back and puts her X-ray on the wall and said, 'I see something on here, I made an appointment for you, you're going to the hospital tomorrow morning.' I'm like, 'OK.' He said, 'This is serious.' I said, 'Does she need surgery or something?' It's not even on my radar. She was a healthy girl.
"Then he's looking at both of us and he said, 'I feel it could be cancer.' In that moment, I'll never forget, my knees buckled, Jalyn fell into me, and I said to her, 'He's just a family doctor, he doesn't know if you have cancer.'
"I don't even know how my car made it to the driveway that night, because my mind was somewhere else, I was so scared. We came home, and I didn't want to make a big deal out of it in front of Jalyn at all. I didn't want her to see I was scared, [instead] look to me for security and comfort."
Tike hung out with Jalyn, and they all spent the evening together before going to the hospital the next morning. A biopsy was scheduled for Jalyn because the staff saw it was a cancerous tumor in the upper right humerus. The biopsy confirmed it was osteosarcoma.
While Jalyn was under anesthesia during that procedure, they put a port in her chest to allow for subsequent chemotherapy access. Within 48 hours, she was admitted to the hospital for her first round of chemo. She received extensive chemo for six weeks, enough time for the tumor to hopefully shrink, and it would entail five-day treatments of chemo in the hospital, in-patient, and then they would go home for two or three days for her counts to recover. She would go back in if she needed blood products. They would have home health care come for hydration help. She was on painkillers for nausea.
Lesley would pray: If this is going to be the end, let it be swift. Let His will be done.
Three months after the initial diagnosis, on May 4, 2009, Jalyn had surgery to have the shrunken tumor removed. Her entire shoulder was removed. Jalyn has a titanium shoulder on the inside of her prosthetic, and was given cadaver bones that support that prosthetic shoulder down to her elbow.
"She just has a real thin scar," Lesley said. "Once you look and see it, it doesn't jump out at you. It's amazing what they can do. They said 30 years ago her arm would have been amputated."
That might have been the happiest possible of endings, a chance to move on. Only life does not always work out that way for families beset with massive medical costs.
After that surgery, Jalyn went back for another six months of chemo. During that time, she was doing physical therapy for her arm to rehab, and still doing the chemo to make sure the cancer cells were still killed off and won't come back. She was trying to stay on track with school, and a tutor would come home as needed. There were times when she was too sick to study, but for the most part, Jalyn was able to stay on course with studies.
"During that time, I was her main caregiver," Lesley said. "Tike was not signed with a team at the time. He went to independent ball, which pays pennies. I was home with our baby. I was living in the hospital with Jalyn as they were treating her. I lost my career, because I am doing that. That's when our demise started financially, because Tike doesn't have a job and I need to help Jalyn."
Jalyn passed all of her tests with flying colors and was allowed to go back to school, starting the second semester of sixth grade in January 2010. She had missed back-to-back semesters. There were still bullying issues to deal with, and side effects of chemo that have a negative impact on comprehending math, such as focus and problem-solving.
Meanwhile, Tike was doing whatever he could to contribute financially. He battled through lower-back pain to train as a potential firefighter, but could not find full-time work.
"It's hard as an athlete to decide when you throw in the towel, or do you wait for that next phone call?" Lesley said. "In the meantime, we have bills as a family, we had made some investments that we lost in 2007 when everything turned for the worst, so we had some unfortunate things come through our personal life. His body was hurting, and it just wasn't working any more.
"Here he was left with his body having gone through playing the game of baseball, and because he was drafted out of high school with no formal training or degree in anything else, any job would be entry level. ... So there again, he was at another dead end."
It pays to have friends within the MLB Family. Corey Patterson was Tike's contemporary, playing center field for another National League team, the Cubs, and later as an Orioles teammate during Tike's final-shot season with Baltimore in 2007. Patterson's wife, Selena, is Lesley's best friend and was with her on a daily basis "when I was breaking down wondering how to pay bills."
Then there is Michael Gonzalez, Tike's best friend and former Pirates teammate. The left-hander came up through the Bucs' system with Tike, and went on to make 509 relief appearances in the Majors, before being released after last season by Milwaukee, his sixth team. They shared the same tenacity of chasing that next call and that next callup, and it was Gonzalez who shared the gift of assistance with his friend. He knew about B.A.T. and connected the Redmans.
"With a lot of baseball wives, you have to step up and it falls on her," Lesley said. "We cashed in our 401K from MLB, we were in survival mode. Michael reached out to B.A.T., we applied, and we were approved for six months of our mortgage and utilities to be paid. That was the most amazing phone call. I will never forget it. It was a godsend.
"It just allowed us that time we needed that I could just care for her and not worry about going for work and just stay in the hospital with her. Then at Christmas, we received a phone call from Dominique Correa [chairwoman of B.A.T.'s awareness committee], who let us know our grant is up for renewal. I didn't even know there was such a thing. I knew it was only approved for six months. She said, 'Are you back on your feet?' I said no, and explained what was going on with us. I submitted the app and they approved us for another six months."
The Redmans are giving back now. The Foundation for Children with Cancer granted Lesley a chapter in the Milwaukee area, and then when there was a sudden need for a next national executive director, she was the perfect choice. Lesley's goal is to be a resource for families who go through similar ordeals. Their foundation is connected to 252 hospitals across the country, and at each location a social worker is available to research a family case where there is an expressed need. Hats On Day is the foundation's key fundraising initiative, something any school can do, backed by many donors, including Twins lefty Brian Duensing and his wife, Lisa.
Tuesday night, the Redmans will be in New York as living proof of what goodwill can do for a family in need. Jalyn turned 16 three days before the event. All the Redmans will be there. Things are working out, and Tike thinks back on where he was 10 years ago and then thinks about the woman who did so much to help get them through an abyss.
"She is an amazing, loving woman," Tike said of Lesley. "She loves her kids, just a loving person. She loves God. So you can't ever knock that out. She loves everybody that she gets in contact with. What she went through with her daughter, it was like she was there every day. It was amazing just to see it. ... There are a lot of parents who would do the same thing. I just know her. She's the best."