Living in Seattle tends to make one root for the home sports team. The Seahawks have been to the Super Bowl the last two years and one the first one (and should’ve one the second if not for a bad last second call). I have my share of Seahawks gear, watch every game, and have been to a few including the game when they beat the Saints on a Monday night and set the record for loudest outdoor stadium. We won’t talk about the move of the Supersonics to Oklahoma City. But baseball is my favorite sport to watch both live and on TV. It’s America’s pastime – up there with hotdogs and apple pie. While I grew up watching the Kansas City Royals, I’ve taking an interest in the Seattle Mariners. They usually underperform, haven’t made the playoffs in years, and have never been to the World Series. But Safeco Field is a wonderful stadium right on the Puget Sound waterfront.
I follow the professional and personal stories of the players. Felix Hernandez-a perennial All Star and Cy Young award winner who was signed as a 16 year old in Venezuela, Robinson Cano-signed from the Yankees for a crazy amount of money, Kyle Seager – the hard working All Star third baseman who many scouts overlooked. And then there’s the long story of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez – or “Guti” as he’s know around here. He played for the Cleveland Indians for several years, was know for his speed in tracking down balls in center field, and was a decent hitter. The Mariners picked him up in 2009 and he immediately made an impression. He won a Golden Glove award as best defensive player at his position and announcer Dave Niehaus called him “Death to Flying Things”. But then he began to have a series of injuries that forced him to miss many games. He battled stomach issues that also kept him on the disabled list. Fans and sports writers began to question is ability to hold up to the rigors of major league baseball. In 2014, he told the team that he was taking the entire season off for “gastrointestinal/autoimmune problems”. The exact medical issues were not readily apparent to the public. Most of us figured that was the last we’d ever see him in a Mariners uniform. But last January he signed a minor league contract with the Mariners and was invited to spring training. He ended up on the Tacoma minor league team – a tough gig for a 32 year old former star. But he battled back and started to show streaks of his old self. Finally, on June 24 of this year, the Mariners called him back to the Major Leagues. While he doesn’t play everyday, he has started in the outfield at times and is hitting the ball well and with power.
With the call back to the major leagues, it finally came to light that Guti has been suffering with ankylosing spondylitis. This autoimmune disease is similar to RA in that joints are attacked by the body’s immune system. It’s treated with the same medications like biologics and DMARDs used to treat RA. This explains much of the struggles Guti has faced over the past few years. And it’s amazing that he’s made it back to the team. He stated,
“It was hard, man,” he said. “I didn’t know what was causing pain in my joints and stiffness in my muscles. It’s something I’m going to have my whole life. It has treatment, but there isn’t any cure. It’s something I have to deal with every day.”
Who knows how long he’ll continue to play baseball. But I hope that treatments work for him and he’s able to enjoy his passion as long as possible. For those of us who suffer from autoimmune arthritis, Guti is a real inspiration!