For a sports obsessed boy, becoming a ball boy for a professional sports team would be a dream come true. Pat McBride was a ball boy for the Brewers, Bucks, and Packers. It was a dream come true but also an escape from a troubled home.
Growing up in my family as a kid was hell.
My first memory, when I was about 4 years old, was staring through the rungs of our staircase, while my drunken mother hit my drunken father with a frying pan during an argument. I was terrified. This would be the first of thousands of nights of drunken fights my 6 siblings and I would live through. Both of my parents were hard working, well respected newspaper reporters, who were nice to us during the day, but most of my memories were the nightly horrors. It was incredibly embarrassing to have friends over, or to have the police called, or to bail my father out of jail. As kids we protected each other and escaped every chance we could.
In 1969, at age 15, I saw an ad in the Milwaukee Journal to write a 25-word essay to be the first bat boy for the Milwaukee Brewers. I won the contest, and became a bat boy on opening day for the Brewers! A surprise was that if you worked in the Brewers locker room at Milwaukee County Stadium, you also would work for the 5 Green Bay Packer games there. I worked very hard, earning a reputation for my hustle, and I worked in the locker room for 7 years. The pay was meager, but the work was wonderful.
That year, I saw that the new Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise won a coin toss to get the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft. I loved basketball, and called the Milwaukee Bucks office to find out how to get a job as a ball boy. The woman who answered said “well you are very lucky, we are interviewing tomorrow.” I took the bus to their office the next day, interviewed with their general manager and trainer, and was chosen to be a ball boy for the Bucks bench. Suddenly I found myself working for 3 professional sports teams!
I believe I am the only kid in America that ever worked for 3 professional sports teams, on the bench and on the sidelines, while in high school and college.
I was the luckiest boy in the world. On the field.
Off the field, it did not feel that way. I left the glory and came home to a dysfunctional family. Hard work could make the pain go away. I made a very clear decision that I would work very hard and, that someday, I would have a strong, stable, and loving family life.
These players work in front of tens of thousands of people – sometimes millions. I watched them work under incredible pressure, and often saw their careers cut short. I was often the one to tell a player that they would no longer be on the team. I met some of the most famous athletes in the history of sports. Working with these pros I learned that kindness, compassion, and humility were the most important paths to success, but also that ” if you work hard it’s amazing how lucky you get”. I learned about character and integrity, because in a locker room of many men, it was how we were treated that showed us their character.
These life lessons taught me that I wanted to do something very meaningful, and help families like mine. I also hoped to distance myself from my family dysfunction. I would go to medical school to become a physician.
Those lessons meant much to me in my career as a physician, professor, researcher and administrator. They made all the difference as a husband and father and friend.