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IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: For Surhoff, Autistic Son Comes First

By Loverro, Thom | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 23, 1996 | Go to article overview

IT'S A FAMILY AFFAIR: For Surhoff, Autistic Son Comes First


Loverro, Thom, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - B.J. Surhoff had a lot to consider in deciding whether to leave the Milwaukee Brewers and sign with the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason.

Surhoff, one of only eight players to appear in more than 1,000 games for the Brewers, was comfortable in Milwaukee. The Orioles, however, offered him his best shot at a World Series. His wife, Polly, grew up in Ellicott City, Md., but his four children had been born and raised in the Milwaukee area.

Yet like nearly everything in his life now, it all came down to 4-year-old Mason - the center of Surhoff's universe. Mason is autistic, an incurable affliction of the brain that can affect a person in a number of ways, altering behavior and disrupting communication skills.

The family was getting good support services in Milwaukee, but better opportunities for therapy and schools exist in the Baltimore medical community - a factor that weighed heavier than any contract negotiation.

"Mason was a very big consideration for me," Surhoff said. "It wasn't that there weren't people in Milwaukee who helped us, but we thought we had a chance to do something more for him in Baltimore. That was really something that we couldn't pass up the opportunity for, a chance to make his life better.

"To leave Milwaukee was the hardest decision I've ever had to make," he said. "I lived there for the better part of nine years. I was part of the community. Baltimore was probably the only place I would have left for."

Surhoff, 31, signed a three-year, $3.7 million contract with the Orioles in December, coming off the best season of his career. He batted .320 with 13 home runs and 73 RBI in 117 games. And although his family was the primary concern, he also is happy to be joining a team with World Series prospects. The acquisition of Surhoff was just one in a handful of offseason moves that also included the free-agent signings of Roberto Alomar, Randy Myers and Roger McDowell and trading for left-handed pitchers David Wells and Kent Mercker.

"I feel fortunate to have been able to come here and that they had an interest in me, with the club they have built here this season," Surhoff said.

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