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September 03, 2013

Mother who kept Brian Flynn's baseball dream alive after father's death looking forward to his big-league debut

CHICAGO -- Brian Flynn was 8 when his father died in a head-on car collision, and the Oklahoma boy’s baseball dream nearly perished with it. Flynn would stand at the door after the accident, staring out on the backyard where he and his father used to practice for hours on end, and his mother would encourage him to keep playing.

“I’d ask him, ‘Do you want to go out and play catch?’” recalled his mother, Michele, “And he would just say no. I’m sure he was just remembering. His father wanted him to become a pitcher, but he never got to see him pitch because he was too young and it was coach-pitch.”

But thanks to his devoted mother, Brian Flynn’s baseball dreams not only lived on, but flourished. When he makes his major league debut for the Marlins on Wednesday at historic Wrigley Field, she’ll be in the stands cheering him on -- and imagining how it would feel if her late husband and Brian’s father could be there to see it, too.

“I think it would be great, sitting next to him, squeezing his hand for the nerves, and how proud he would be at the moment,” she said.

Said Brian Flynn of his father: “He always worked with me in the backyard, lived and breathed baseball. After he died, she kept it going. She kept pushing (for me) to fulfill the dream.”

Flynn, 23, is a 6-foot-8-inch left-hander, and one of three players the Marlins obtained in last year’s trade with the Tigers for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The other two players acquired by the Marlins in that trade -- catcher Rob Brantly and pitcher Jacob Turner -- have already played for them.

Flynn went 6-11 for Triple A New Orleans this season but led the Pacific Coast League with a 2.80 ERA. Despite his height, Flynn displayed good control, averaging only 2.6 walks per nine innings.

But it took a lot of hard work for Flynn to develop his accuracy.

“Part of that was a struggle because he was a big kid, awkward,” said Michele Flynn.

Brian Flynn described himself at one time as being “uncoordinated” due to his height, with “legs flailing, arms flailing and a lot of body parts all over the place.”

But Michele took it upon herself to find Brian the best pitching coaches to work with in the Tulsa area, and eventually he landed at Wichita State. The Tigers drafted him in the seventh round of the 2011 first-year player draft.

“It’ll be a good day,” Brian Flynn said of Wednesday’s big league debut, with his mom watching from the stands. “It was kind of a dream me and my dad had. Mom supported it and kept it going.”