The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on January 28, 1996 · Page 41
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 41

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Sunday, January 28, 1996
Page 41
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Caring Athlete Awards JIM EISENREICH ANDRE AGASSI HAKEEM OLAJUWON visiting CF facilities to learn everything he could about the disease. He wanted people to take him seriously when he asked for funds. "It's important for me to be hands- on," he says. "When your name is associated with something, you have to be on the money. You can't take any day, any moment, any decision for granted." Esiason's Heroes Foundation sponsors golf, basketball and volleyball tournaments to raise money for CF research. In typical Boomer style, the fund-raisers are huge events, and he's involved in every aspect. He calls up big-name athletes and cajoles them into playing basketball or golf for a day. He reviews the designs for invitations to benefits. He meets with sponsors to smile and shake hands and talk up all the good work their money will accomplish. Esiason's efforts have raised more than $2 million for CF research since 1993. (While a cure is still many years away, research advances have extended the median survival age for cystic fibrosis patients from 19 in 1980 to 29 today.) Esiason's 1996 schedule already is filled through July. "Right now I have people telling me to slow down. I'd rather hear that as opposed to thinking 10 years from now, 'If I could only have done more.' I don't want to leave any stone unturned." Esiason's Heroes Foundation also provides funds for the families of Long Island firefighters and police officers killed in the line of duty. On the day of this interview, Esiason is on the go. He's rushing to New York's LaGuardia Airport to catch a 5:30 p.m. flight to Washington, D.C., for yet another CF project. Gunnar perks his head up when he hears his father is leaving and jumps to his feet to say goodbye. Esiason kisses his boy, then heads out the door. He has that "attack" look in his eye. B3 By Richard Vega $1,000 goes to trw Boomer Esiason Heroes foundation. To contribute, write to tne foundation trt 1 World Trace Center, 102nd Floor, New York, N.Y. 10048. BASEBALL Jim Eisenreich J im Eisenreich's 5-foot-ll frame is crammed into a wooden chair meant for a 10-year-old. He's talkinj to sixth-graders in the library of Belinder Elementary School in Prairie Village, Kan., about his favorite ballplayer (Rod Carew) and what it was like to hit a home run in Game 2 of the 1993 World Series (great). Once in a while, his hands quiver and nostrils flare, which brings him to his most important subject: Iburette Syndrome, the neurological disorder he has had since childhood. "When I was your age," the Philadelphia Phillies player tells the sixth- graders, "kids didn't understand why I was making these noises and movements. It was very hard to have friends." Each month during the baseball season, Eisenreich, 36, meets with hundreds of kids with Tourette Syndrome and their families before home games. He speaks openly about his life with TS (and buys them game tickets). His goal: to instill self-esteem in kids who are often ridiculed. TS patient Richard Singleton, 14, of Grandview, Mo., credits Eisenreich with giving him the confidence to get a summer job. "I [thought], 'If Jim can do all this, I can, too.'" Eisenreich, who now lives in Kansas City, Mo., didn't realize he had TS until he was 23. The tics he had as a boy in Minnesota—involuntary jerks, twitches and grunts, although not the inappropriate bursts of profanity some BETSY KING people with TS exhibit—were blamed on nerves. He was teased constantly. Once, when he was 13, he was playing ping-pong at his best friend's house when "neighborhood kids I thought were [my] friends came to the window and started calling me names and making the noises I do. My friend shut the curtain. We could still hear them." Eisenreich signed with the Minnesota Twins in 1982. But by June he'd been placed on the disabled list as team doctors tried to understand the cause of his nervous tics. Fans and the media mistakenly blamed stage fright. Finally, Eisenreich was diagnosed with TS. He tried to play the next two seasons, but left after 12 games in 1984. He went to work at an archery shop in St. Cloud, Minn., and didn't return to baseball until 1987, when he felt his TS was under control. Today, medication limits his tics. Last season he batted .316. Eisenreich raises money for the Kansas City Tourette Syndrome Association with golf tournaments and an annual bowl-a-thon, which takes place this weekend. The events raise between $10,000 and $20,000 each year. During baseball season, Eisenreich receives 50-100 letters a week, most of them from kids with TS. He answers all of that mail personally, often from hotel rooms during road trips. "I write until 2 or 3 hi the morning. I don't go out — I'm not a party person." Eisenreich listens to country music as he writes, especially Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks. But he admits he's often so focused on writing those kids that he doesn't hear the music, ca By Richard Vega $1,000 goes to the Kansas City Tourette Syndrome Association. To contribute to Etsenreich's cause, write: Jim Eisenreich Foundation for Children With Tourette Syndrome, P.O. Box 953, Blue Springs, Mo. 64013. BASEBALL: HONORABLE MENTIONS • Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle Mariners: for work with terminally III and disadvantaged children • Mo Vaughn, Boston Red Sox: inner-city teens • Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox: children with cancer USA WEEKEND • Jan. 26-28, 1W6 5

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