A tough summer turns bright for Clayton
Casey McGehee’s lucky charm is 7-year-old Clayton Wollner of Sussex, Wis., whose shyness led to a bold request from his mom, which led to one of the best days of McGehee’s baseball life.
McGehee told Clayton’s story after belting three home runs in the Brewers’ series-clinching, 10-5 win over the Cardinals on Wednesday at Miller Park. He’d met Clayton — McGehee didn’t know the boy’s last name — on the field before the game, and was trying to draw out some conversation. Clayton was shy, so his mom, Jennifer, and dad, Ben, tried to drive some conversation. Mom blurted out that McGehee should hit a homer for Clayton.
“Honestly, I feel a little bad about it now,” Jennifer Wollner said Thursday morning. “I didn’t know he hadn’t really been hitting this season.”
McGehee had not homered since July 6. He had one home run in his previous 65 games.
Then something special happened.
McGehee hit a go-ahead two-run home run off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson in the first inning. McGehee hit another go-ahead two-run homer off Jackson in the third for his second career multihomer game, and then connected on a solo shot in the seventh for what McGehee believes is the first three-homer game of his life.
He called it “one of those out of body experiences,” and before reporters broke away from McGehee’s locker on Wednesday afternoon, he urged them to stay for the story about Clayton.
“I want to bring him to Houston with me, and then we’re going to go to St. Louis,” said McGehee, perhaps joking, perhaps not, about the team’s upcoming road trip. “I want to get him a locker — we have a little space right here. Hopefully, we’re going to track Clayton down.”
It turns out that Clayton Wollner loves baseball, but was forced to sit on the bench this summer. He was born with a condition called craniosynostosis, which prevents his skull from growing properly. He’s had seven surgeries, the most recent on July 13 at Children’s Hospital. He will need more surgeries in his life.
“It’s not a life-threatening condition, but it’s one you have to keep up on,” Jennifer Wollner said. “As he continues to grow, his skull won’t grow right, and that means his brain can’t grow right.”
The Wollners were hoping that someone might simply be able to call Clayton with a message of support, to keep his chin up, and through some family ties with Fox Sports Wisconsin, their request reached the Brewers. An invitation to a ballgame followed, along with a surprise tour of Miller Park and an even more surprising opportunity to stand on the field while the Cardinals took batting practice.
Suddenly, there was McGehee, a Brewer in the flesh. He wanted to meet Clayton because this is a cause dear to his own heart. Casey and Sarah McGehee’s first child, a bundle of energy named Mack, was born with cerebral palsy.
McGehee spent 15 minutes talking with the Wollners, and then it was game time. Who knew it would be such a memorable game?
The Wollners had not even made it home to Sussex before McGehee’s story about Clayton aired on the radio and the phone calls started coming. Everybody wanted to know: Is this your Clayton?
“We never expected any of this,” Jennifer said. “And we’re not expecting anything further than this. We’ve read the articles and joked about [meeting McGehee again], but we’ve kept the expectations very low. We appreciated our time with him, and were just blown away by our whole day.
“When he hit the first home run we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is so fun!’ When it got to three, we were kind of speechless.”
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