The pandemic perspective Red Sox starter Matt Hall received from his sister


We know what will be on at least a few of the Lee's Summit Buffalo Wild Wings' screens Tuesday night, that is as long they can dial up the Red Sox game.

"We're going to have about 30 people there," said Ashley Hertzog.

It's understandable.

Matt Hall, the pride of Lee's Summit and Ashley's brother, is getting his first career major-league start, and those who have watched every step of his journey wouldn't miss the big moment for the world.

"Oh, my gosh," said Hertzog when the topic of Hall's start against the Mets is brought up. "I think there are no words to describe how proud we are of him because he has just worked so hard for as long as I can remember. I tell my little boys, I use him as the prime example, I tell them, ‘It’s possible but you have to work so far all the time.’ We couldn’t be more proud of him. He’s an amazing baseball player but he truly is an amazing person. He is truly one of the most thoughtful, caring, giving, people you would ever meet. He’s a perfect role model for my kids."

Speaking of role models ...

Hall's story since arriving with the Red Sox from the Tigers via a January trade is a good one. Once in Fort Myers, Fla., the 27-year-old immediately latched on to the adjustments suggested by pitching coach Dave Bush and others, incorporating a two-seamer and cutter, before having to head back home for the COVID-19-induced hiatus. Once back in Kansas City, however, the quest to continue the momentum hit somewhat of a roadblock.

"I was hopping on high school fields," he explained. "Every week a high school field would close so I had to go to another one. Eventually, it got to the point where I was just throwing to an empty field."

Even when summoned to Spring Training 2.0 the obstacles kept coming.

"Five to six days before 2.0 and I was throwing baseballs into my pillow," Hall said. "I didn’t have anywhere to throw or anyone to throw with. I just stayed in the hotel room and played catch with the pillow."

It has led to a potentially life-changing opportunity. But even before baseball kicked back in, Hall was afforded the kind of perspective his profession might never allow. For that, he could thank his sister Ashley, another of the family's role models.

"It just made me realize every day is a gift," Hall explained. "You have to take advantage of every day, better yourself and not leave anything on the table."

"It" was Hertzog volunteering to go to a place (New York City) the nurse had never been in her life to help deal with a virus (COVID-19) nobody had ever witnessed.

Starting April 13, Hertzog packed up her things, said goodbye to her husband, four children and brother, and started a four-week stint at Roosevelt Island caring for patients during the heart of New York's coronavirus crisis.

"When you’re a nurse it’s like a team. Knowing there are lots of nurses up there who need help," Hertzog said. "But then you get there and you see, ‘This is exactly why I do what I do.’

"It was definitely life-changing. I don’t know if you can prepare yourself. You hear things, but then you go up there and I don’t know if you can actually be prepared."

The bus would pick up Hertzog and her fellow workers at 6 a.m., with the group getting back to the hotel at 8 p.m. That would be seven days a week for four straight weeks.

Just a few days before she and her family were supposed to be making the trip to Southwest Florida to visit Hall, but in an instance -- as has been the case for so many throughout the past few months -- everything changed.

"It was really interesting to see from Day 1 to Day 25. You could see it slowly starting to get bad to normal," Hertzog added. "You could see it was a good thing we came and we did make a difference and help everyone get through it."

She returned home with stories and lessons learned from the month-long stretch in New York, now getting the opportunity to do something else completely foreign to Hertzog and her family -- be around Hall during May and June.

There were Little League games and family dinners which the lefty pitcher could never experience because of the baseball season. Until finally life truly started feeling a bit more normal for the Halls and the Hertzogs. Baseball was back.

The story's next chapter? Table for 30 at Buffalo Wild Wings.

"I mean baseball is America’s sport," Hertzog said. "They can’t shut that down. Is that allowed? I never could get myself to imagine it not starting."

Matt Hall is making his first big-league start

— The Bradfo Sho (@Bradfo_Sho) July 28, 2020