Oakland A's slugger Josh Reddick gets resilience from father Kenny Reddick, who survived a blast of 7,620 volts of electricity that nearly killed him. (Doctors declared him dead three times).
Kenny Reddick remembers an out-of-body experience. "I was on the other side of my body and everyone was frantic. I was saying, 'It's OK, it's OK,' but no one could hear me."
May 24, 2012 Reported in [mercurynews.com] - Because his dad's hands had been ravaged by a power plant accident, Josh Reddick made a call to the bullpen whenever he wanted to take batting practice as a kid. He would summon a right-hander with a below-average fastball and shaky control. "I was horrible," Cheryl Reddick concedes. "But I guess horrible is better than not at all." On the phone from Rincon, Ga., his mom recalls the long list of hurdles Josh overcame on his way to becoming the A's most productive hitter.
Her spotty control was the least of it. There was Kenny Reddick's accident, a blast of 7,620 volts of electricity that nearly killed him. (Doctors declared him dead three times). There was Josh being cut from his middle school baseball team. There was Josh being cut by that same team, again. There was Reddick's slow start to his big league career as he totaled just 10 home runs over his first 143 games. And then there's this: Reddick has 11 home runs this season, seventh in the American League entering Thursday's play, as the A's prepare for a three-game series against the visiting New York Yankees starting Friday. He is also fifth in total bases and tied for ninth in extra-base hits. Reddick, tellingly, is immune to complaints that the Coliseum is a lousy place to hit. That's because griping was forbidden during his childhood. Just try whining to Kenny Reddick, who coped with the loss of his hands by figuring out how to maneuver items with his feet.
"We don't have a whole lot to complain about in this family, with him being the way he is and the drive that he's had over the years," Reddick said before a game against the Angels this week. "That probably has to do with my work ethic, him having the heart and drive and to teach me how to play the same way. From him, the biggest thing was: 'Don't let anyone tell you you're not good enough.' " Kenny Reddick was 25 years old, the father of two little boys, when he took a lunch break at the Savannah Power Co. in 1988. He'd been up in a bucket truck, working on a pole with the power shut off, and while he was gone, a supervisor ordered the juice flipped back on.
Kenny Reddick touched the high-voltage power line and suffered massive burns. As doctors fought to save him, he had an out-of-body experience. "I was on the other side of my body and everyone was frantic. I was saying, 'It's OK, it's OK,' but no one could hear me," he told the San Francisco Chronicle during spring training. "Then I blinked, and the light was so bright, but it didn't hurt my eyes, and I thought, 'Here I am at the pearly gates.' And I blinked again and I was back in my body." His left hand is gone. Doctors rebuilt his right the best they could, using muscles from Reddick's back, groin and leg. He has enough movement in his pinkie for everyday tasks such as writing and brushing his teeth.
He eventually learned how to throw again, and to swing a bat. He began coaching, over the objection of the parks and recreation department that feared he would frighten children. As it turned out, the kids loved him; the parents caused a stir over nothing. "Surprising, right?" Josh Reddick said dryly. Kenny is still coaching, even with Josh in the big leagues. Kenny canceled a scheduled interview for this story because of a pressing matter: His players needed him. Even Josh's line has been quiet lately because his hot start means dad can go easy on advice. "But as soon as I start struggling, I know my phone is going to start blowing up with him calling," Josh joked.
Kenny Reddick had been a terrific softball player, with a powerful swing and a strong throwing arm. Josh inherited those gifts, as well as a passion for the game. "It was a childhood love," Cheryl Reddick recalled. "He was 5 years old when he told us we would see him on TV one day." That prediction required patience. Cut from his middle school team -- twice -- Josh Reddick asked his dad how he could get better. Kenny told him to hone his game with at least 150 swings per day off a backyard batting tee. "Well, Josh didn't want to do that because he thought it was lame," Cheryl said. "Josh hadn't played tee ball since he was 5 years old. How in the world could a still ball help him?" Kenny, though, hounded his son to tee it up. Josh embraced the idea only when it dawned on him that he was getting dramatically better.
"Then he'd come home, zoom through his homework, and out the back door he would go," Cheryl said. "We didn't even have time to ask him where he was going. It didn't take long until we heard it -- whack, whack, whack -- 100-150 balls until he just couldn't hold the bat anymore." The kid who hadn't been good enough to make the middle school team blossomed in high school before hitting .461 as a freshman at Middle Georgia College. The Red Sox drafted him in the 17th round in 2006, and he spent the past three seasons splitting time between Triple-A and Boston. He and two minor leaguers were traded to the A's in December for closer Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney. Reddick has never played so much as 100 games in a big-league season. But he's been the A's main man -- a crashing cymbal in an otherwise silent lineup.
"I never expected to come out here and hit double-digit home runs by the middle of May," Reddick acknowledged. Manager Bob Melvin said has been surprised by Reddick's power and by his rocket arm in right. But having met Kenny Reddick during the A's trip to Tampa in early May, the manager is no longer surprised by the outfielder's resilience. "You could tell that Josh gets a lot of the personality and the drive and the perseverance and the confidence from his dad," Melvin said. "He seems to be an effervescent guy who has a certain personality. It just seems contagious." Fans can see it in Josh's play. Down in the count? Six of Reddick's home runs this year have come with two strikes. Running out of time? Five of his home runs have come in the seventh inning or later. "Anybody who knows my dad's story can understand the concept of never giving up and not letting stuff get in your way," Reddick said. "Mom was the same way. She was throwing batting practice to me when my dad couldn't. Once they realized I had the dream of wanting to do this, they both got aboard. We just kept going."
[Read/view] story titled Kenny Reddick died for approximately two minutes. He said he saw the white light three times and had out-of-body experiences, watching on as CPR was performed on him.