The last few weeks have been more stressful for Craig Kimbrel than anything the Boston Red Sox closer ever will face on a Major League Baseball diamond.
Kimbrel left Red Sox spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., at the end of February and returned to Boston to be with his infant daughter, Lydia, who underwent heart surgery for a defect she was born with in November. He rejoined the team Monday with some good news about his daughter’s health and an appreciation for the folks at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“There’s no denying it’s been the toughest thing we’ve ever been through,” Kimbrel told reporters in Fort Myers, per WEEI.com. “We’ve been in the right place. I can’t say enough about how amazing Boston Children’s Hospital has been — the nurses, the doctors, they’ve been absolutely amazing in helping us through this process and helping more with me and (my wife) Ashley, because we know Lydia is taken care of. They’ve been absolutely amazing.
“In the last week, her recovery has been unbelievable and she’s showing great signs and we’re very blessed and we want to thank the Red Sox and (manager) Alex (Cora) for understanding they’ve been through this and working with us. It’s been tough, I can say that. We’re definitely, me and my wife, we’ve had each other and we’ve had our family, we’ve had a great support. Everyone is sending out prayers that have definitely been heard.”
Kimbrel’s return to spring training highlights the positive progress Lydia has made since her most recent heart surgery. She’s expected to remain at Boston Children’s Hospital for a couple of more weeks, but according to Kimbrel, she’s in a “good, comfortable place.”
“If she wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here,” he said.
It’s fair to wonder how much the time away from spring training will impact Kimbrel’s preparation for the 2018 season, but the 29-year-old recently threw a live bullpen session at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and fully expects to be ready for Opening Day.
Still, his daughter’s health obviously remains the most important thing, and it’s great to hear she’s progressing so well amid a scary situation.
“My family comes first and then baseball comes,” Kimbrel said. “I have to thank the Red Sox for letting me be there with my family and then helping me continue to prepare while I was at home. Stepping away for a few hours was definitely a release. It did help to get in the weight room. It did help to throw the ball. But that’s not going to take away the emotions we went through in the hospital.”
Through everything, the Kimbrels are maintaining a positive attitude, knowing Lydia has been so courageous and undoubtedly will serve as an inspiration throughout her life.
“We’re very strong in our faith. We believe that everything in life happens for a reason, even if we don’t understand it at the time,” Kimbrel said. “There’s a lesson to be learned and something to be shared through every step you go through in life. As difficult as this is, and I know it will take time, hopefully this experience and everything we’ve been through, we can share that with others, try to impact someone else’s life. Because I know for a fact my daughter’s going to be able to do that one day.”
Suddenly, pitching in the ninth inning of a baseball game doesn’t seem so stressful.