In Memoriam: From Batboy to Biographer

By Phil Riske || Senior Reporter/Writer

Among the changes made to the rules of Major League Baseball this season apply to batboys. 

Without going into detail here, batboys, usually teenagers, must perform more quickly and more efficiently as the game is now designed to eat up less time.

Under the pressure of being a batboy for a team coached by my dad, at age 12, I made sure each player had their favorite bat when they went to the plate. (Amazed how such solid wood could splinter, I collected broken bats.)

A star pitcher on “my team” was also an all-round athlete, including holding a shooting record at the University of Wyoming. I recently told him he had always been my hero because he was the gifted ballplayer and later surgeon that I wanted to be.

At the suggestion of his daughter, I spent hours and hours interviewing him about his time shining shoes at his dad’s barber shop and his medical school experiences —“I was handed a diploma that said I was a medical doctr, culminating four of the hardest years of my life.”  

He was Navy flight surgeon in Vietnam and a hospital executive before he retired.

During his tenure as chief of staff at a Wyoming hospital, he was called to a trona mine where a cave-in had trapped a man. My hero was lowered 1,500 feet to treat and save the miner’s life.

(Years later, he surgically repaired one of my fingers.)

We produced a book entitled From Shining Shoes to Filling Them.

Mostly by texting, we discussed sports and politics.

In July last year, he called me, asking for a favor.

“I want you to write my obituary,” he said.

When we love someone, we’ll do everything asked.

“Noted surgeon and athlete Dr.Terry Happel, 84, of Chandler, Ariz. passed away July 15 at Chandler Regional Hospital after a short illness …”

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