Here's Wishing Kalen Gearhart the Best

The word "tragedy" is often applied where it shouldn't. The loss of a game, for example, is not a tragedy, no matter how important it was to you. If it rains on a festive occasion, sorry, no tragedy. But when I tell you that the last couple of years in the life of Kalen Gearhart have been laced with tragedy, it fits.

Two years ago, he lost his father. The two were close and it was sudden, unexpected and it left a huge void in his life. Then last winter there was a horrible auto accident. His brother was severely injured; his cousin was killed.

As he was set to report to spring training, a pain in his side turned out to be severe appendicitis forcing an operation. Okay, that may not qualify as a tragedy but it certainly puit a crimp in his career for he was hoping to compete for a job on a full-season team. Instead, he recovered at home and didn't get to Dodgertown until the extended camp began.

Pro ball has not been an easy path for Gearhart. He set most of his high school's hitting records but scouts didn't seem to venture near Lewistown, tucked in the hills of central Pennsylvania. So, his coach decided to stir things up by creating a web site in which he listed Kalen's accomplishments, hoping someone in the game would notice.

Dodger scout Clair Rierson did. He worked Gearhart out and liked what he saw. Only it wasn't Kalen's skills with a bat that intrigued him but, rather, his arm. So, he was signed as a free agent pitcher in 2004 and sent to the Gulf Coast League.

He had quite a year there, too. Went 3-0, had a 1.89 ERA. Did that get him a promotion the next spring? Nah, he had some injuries that held him back and when he finally got well, he was back in the same old league. Things do not come easily for him.

Last summer he was pushed up to Ogden where he didn't fare so well. Neither did a lot of other pitchers there, for that matter so he still had hopes of getting a promotion. That appendix that was about to burst changed all that.

So, he's back with Ogden again, doing what he usually does, pitching in middle relief, taking over for a starter, setting up a closer. He's doing well so far- won his first decision the other day, has a 1.08 ERA.

Gearhart has an average fast ball and a decent curve. He knows how to use them and he throws strikes. So far this year in 8.1 innings, he's fanned nine while walking only one. In short, he's been reliable.

In a few weeks, Kalen will have his 22nd birthday. I'm not sure how happy it can be considering all that's happened in his life but I hope it is. Take some time to wish along with me that positive things happen for him. He's a good quiet man who is overcoming tragedy.

Life isn't fair; we all know that. But here's somebody that deserves the road to bend in the right direction and the path to get smoother. I, for one, hope he gets that.