Topeka's Brody Keil throws out first pitch at Royals game
Brody Keil had been working on it for weeks.
"I was throwing heat," he said.
His first pitch at Thursday night's Royals game was just a day away. And the practice had to keep coming for the boy with nicknames for his favorite players.
"Get Some Hits Whit," Keil started rattling off. "Dozier's On The Prowl. Get Some Air Soler."
His favorite is Whit Merrifield. But the All-Star kind of confuses him.
"He always hits doubles and I don't know why," Keil said. "But guess what, he's really good."
As good as the eight-year-old is at battling a very rare condition.
"He's had his tough moments with surgeries and hurting and health not being good," Brody's mother Jess said. "But the kid's a trooper."
After 24 hours of labor, Jess and her husband noticed Brody was having trouble breathing as a newborn. Doctors would later tell them he had Marfan syndrome, an incurable genetic condition that affects the body's connective tissue.
"It was kind of heartbreaking at first because a lot of them said he may not make it past kindergarten," Jess Keil said. "You really have to balance reality and hope."
The latter progressively prevailed. Brody made it through a heart surgery at just 14 months old and has had four more procedures between his back and eyes. The first back surgery was when Jess saw her son really start to shine.
"That's when we started kind of noticing his fighter attitude on things," Jess said.
"It wasn't so bad, seriously," Brody said.
"He might get through this and beat it a little bit more than what we initially all thought," Jess recalled thinking.
From there, the boy has just grown into himself. He loves cracking jokes, watching the Royals and KU as well as playing basketball. All of that helps people notice what they really should.
"His personality, orneriness and old soul," Jess said. "Sometimes, kids will say well why does your chest stick out? And we've taught him to say I have a big heart."
Which of course has a huge spot for the Royals. They even took precedence at a Ronald McDonald House trip in May.
"He had on all his Royals gear and kept nagging me, 'Mom the game's on, the game's on. We got to watch the game,'" Jess said. "And I said, 'Bud, we're checking in.'"
But the woman checking them in loved all of Brody's gear. She used it as a mental note to call a few weeks ago and offer the boy a chance to hurl that heater at Thursday night's game.
"And I said, yeah he's going to flip out," Jess said with a laugh.
"Yes, I get to throw out the first pitch," Brody said. "That's really fun."
So he ran out onto the field he's dreamed of being on and fired just like he had been practicing. The result? A strike.
The practice made for a perfect pitcher.
"To see him so happy, the kid has been through a lot," Jess said. "He really deserved a neat opportunity."