Geroge Brett is a hero to Kansas City baseball fans.
The Hall of Fame third baseman led the Royals to their first World Series title, is the only player in major league history to win batting titles in three different decades and is among an elite group of players with 3,000 base hits.
While many respect his exploits on the field, few know about his compassion away from the game. One person well aware of that compassion is 2007 Blue Springs High School grad Sarah Nauser-Olsen, who was diagnosed with ALS in May 2018.
One of Brett’s first real friends when he arrived in Kansas City in 1973 was Keith Worthington, who was diagnosed with ALS.
Brett worked to raise awareness of the deadly disease that generally affects both the upper motor neuron, those nerves leading from the brain to the medulla or to the spinal cord, and the lower motor neurons, those neurons leading from the spinal cord to the muscles of the body. It is deadly, and there is no known cure.
Just before Worthington’s death, Brett promised his friend he would continue the fight against the disease – and he has, for more than four decades.
When he met Nauser-Olsen at a Royals game this season, they struck up an immediate friendship. Brett will attend her Sarah’s Soldiers Golf Tournament today at Teetering Rocks Golf Course in Kansas City, but he has done much more for the spirited Kansas City Police Department officer than sign a few autographs and play a round of golf.
“George did something for me that might save my life,” Sarah said Thursday afternoon as she sat in her wheelchair on the deck of the Teetering Rocks clubhouse.
Brett was on hand when President Donald Trump made a recent trip to Kansas City. U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Nauser-Olsen were also on the airport tarmac.
“I’ve been trying to promote awareness of ALS for a long time, and it’s because of meeting people like Keith and Sarah,” Brett said. “President Trump is a supporter of the Right to Try Act,” which allows patients to have access to eligible investigational drugs.
“And there is a drug that could help Sarah, but she needs some help to get on the list. She called me and asked if I would talk to Josh about it, so I did.”
The end result: Nauser-Olsen is flying to Washington Sept. 25 to meet with Hawley to discuss the drug, NurOwn, which has been successful in three clinical trials.
“George called Sen. Hawley, and I don’t even know what to say, how to thank him – it could save my life if I get to be part of the clinical trial,” she said. “I’m a very positive person, and I just feel like this is going to work out. I am so excited.”
Because she is still part of the KCPD – she reviews videos from dash cams – she has insurance. One drug she takes through a permanent portal in her chest costs $50,000 for 10 rounds.
“And I can’t even imagine what NorOwn costs, but I hope and pray I have the opportunity to be a part of a clinical trial because it could take seven to 10 years for it to be approved by the FDA – and I don’t have seven to 10 years.”
She has been the guest of Joel Goldberg and Jeff Montgomery on two Royals pregame shows.
“The Royals and George have been great to me,” she said. “Captain Lonnie Price and Sgt. Paul Hamilton of the KCPD have worked so hard to get this golf tournament going and I have had so much support since I was diagnosed, it’s been amazing.”
She was supposed to throw out the first pitch at Thursday’s Blue Springs- Raymore-Peculiar softball game, but the threat of rain forced the game to be postponed.
“I was so disappointed because I wanted to see my old coach (Jim Brandner, who was an assistant when she played) and my old teammate (Lauren Eisenreich, who is now Brandner’s assistant),” Nauser-Olsen said.
“But I told them, I was going to have to wheel the ball across the plate, instead of throwing it, but that would have been all right. We’ll make it happen someday.”
“Who knows, if I get on that clinical trial, I might be able to throw the first pitch. Wouldn’t that be cool?”