MILROY- Tonight's home game will bring an end to the Milroy Yankees' regular season, but more importantly it will be a chance to remember two members of the Yankee family taken far too early. Yankees' pitcher Josh Hadley lost sister Kaylie Hogue to an epileptic seizure on June 5, 2013. Nine months later, tragedy struck the family again when brother Tyler was lost in a car crash outside of Sleepy Eye.
Josh was asleep when his phone rang. He figures it was about 2:30 in the morning.
Photo illustration by David Merrill
Pictured above are, from left, Ryan Rohlik, Austin Deutz and Josh Hadley. The three are showing the initials of Kaylie Hogue and Tyler Hadley, who were lost this past year to an epileptic seizure and a car accident respectively. Saturday’s game against Stark will help raise money for the Epileptic foundation.
"It was the phone call in the middle of the night that you dread," Hadley said. "It was some of the worst news you can imagine."
As soon as he could, he drove from Wabasso, where he now teaches and helps coach baseball, to his hometown of Sleepy Eye to be with the rest of his family.
Kaylie, age 24, had suffered a seizure and was eventually found by her friends in her bathroom. The family struggled to come to grips that this had happened so suddenly.
"Not one of us slept the entire night," Hadley said. "There were some of my family members that traveled two or three hours just to be there that night. It felt like it was going in slow motion, but in reality, it all happened so fast. You got the feeling like, 'now what do you do?'"
Kaylie was a theater enthusiast who enjoyed putting on plays at Martin County West where she taught. And, like Josh, she was a movie buff. She was extremely well-liked in the community.
The family was aware Kaylie had epilepsy just two years before she died. It was being monitored closely and she was taking medication, but up until the first week of June, there had been no major incidents involving the condition. Her official cause of death came out as respiratory failure.
In her case, the seizures can be caused by stress or exhaustion. Kaylie had recently gotten engaged and was moving to the Twin Cities with her fiance, Kurt Muhl.
Movies, whether she made them herself in the families living room or watched them as a family, were a bonding time for the family. Josh, Tyler and Kaylie would all quote movie lines on road trips when they weren't having their own personal auditions for the next American Idol.
"We all thought we could sing, but we really couldn't," Hadley said. "It was always just a lot of fun. She was one of the most kind and humble people I've had the chance to know and live with."
It took a full seven months for the family to turn a corner emotionally following Kaylie's death. Two months after the family had come to grips with it, they were dealt another blow.
Josh was just returning from a work trip to Iowa when he got word of a car accident just outside of Sleepy Eye, he knew there was ice and that there was a helicopter involved. Worried, he started sending out texts, trying to get information.
He finally got the call around 11:30 p.m. from a friend of his dad.
"We had unpacked everything and I was just settling in to relax for the night," Hadley said. "You're just in shock. You don't want to believe it. You kind of just go numb and don't know what to say or how to react."
Tyler, 20, was a standout athlete and one who, like Kaylie, had a selfless attitude toward life. He was someone who Josh describes as one of his best friends.
"All of his friends always said and knew that he would be the one who would be there for you to help you when you needed it. I always felt a little jealous because mom could never get mad at him."
He was a participant in the state golf tournament and helped lead the basketball team to a state championship berth his junior season. He also played on the football team.
Basketball was something the two brothers bonded over.
"One of the things I remember was that if there was a game on, me and him would be texting back and forth, either making fun of a team or complaining about something. Basketball is definitely where we bonded the most."
Josh even coached his traveling team for one season and has also coached against him.
The one one-on-games in the driveway became intense, but they were also always one sided.
"We even had a little miniature hoop that we played on in the house and had the biggest battles until mom told us we were too big to play in the house. "I would never let him win, ever. There was one game I spotted him a 90-point lead once and I still didn't let him win. I figured if I beat him down then, he'd be tougher when he grew up."
The tactic worked. Tyler went on to break most of Josh's basketball records at Sleepy Eye.
It was right around the time of Kaylie's death that the sport Hadley loved started to become a personal struggle.
"I didn't play a whole lot of games after that," Hadley said. "I was just unsure of how things are going to be. Are things going to be different? Was somebody going to say something? How are people going to respond? You stay away for a while because you don't want to answer the questions immediately. You are a little apprehensive about going back out in public."
After taking some time off, Hadley knew it was time to get back on the field. The game became one of his best friends when he needed it most.
It was a decision he was glad he made.
"It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made, to go back and play, but once I got back, I was glad I did. It felt like it was my escape."
After Tyler's death, Josh again felt the desire to do anything outside of the family walls that had acted as a sanctuary.
He secluded himself once again.
"I took about two-and-a-half, three weeks off from everything," Hadley said. "I didn't go to work, I didn't coach, I didn't do anything. I was back and forth between my parents house and my house. People were always in and out of the house, checking on you and bringing you really good food. I was never really alone, but I wasn't ready to get back into functioning in my daily routine."
Baseball for Hadley this season has become his escape once again.
A lot of this came from support, not only from his own teammates, but from the entire amateur baseball community.
Both Tyler's and Kaylie's visitations drew people in the thousands - more people that occupy most of the surrounding towns.
"You're opponents on the field, but off the field, everyone knows everyone," Hadley said. "My teammates came through and other team's guys were there as well as their coaches. I had messages from everyone in the league. It's pretty special what that can do for a guy. It makes you realize that it's not about the game, it's about life. They really care about you and your family. It's an amazing feeling."
This season, the team put the initials "TH" and "KH" on the back of their hats and made shirts they wear under their uniforms with the message "#HadleyStrong."
Hadley feels that baseball, at its core, is meant to be fun.
"It's one of those things where you can get away from the mundane things of life," he said. "It's a game that you play with your friends. You get to see guys that you competed against in high school or college. It's always nice to see those guys. Playing amateur ball, you're a lot closer to other teams than most people realize. Sure, you have your rivalries on the field, but that doesn't mean you don't go out and have a good time with them afterwards."
Tonight's game against Stark is another step in moving forward for Josh and the rest of his family. The night is to honor Kaylie and Tyler, but for the Hadley family, the remembering is constant.
Kaylie and Tyler are still with the family, just not in a physical sense.
"There's not a day that goes by that something doesn't remind you of them. It could be something as simple a as song on the radio or a movie clip," Hadley said.
Even simple things like seeing a water tower. Kaylie always used to signal or call out when they were pulling into a town, telling everyone she could see the water tower.
Josh's mother, Deb, feels that with Tyler's accident only four months ago the family is going through the grieving process all over again.
"It's hard," she said. "When you wake up in the morning it's really hard. You can only think about it an hour at a time because of all the stuff that comes back. They were really awesome people. We try to focus on all the blessings and great things we have in our life."
After the incidents, the Hadley family has become a lot closer to their faith and has also made some more small changes.
"A lot of times, when tragedy happens, some families drift apart, ours became extremely close," Hadley said. "I will always text my mom 'goodnight, I love you.' Every time you leave, you give hugs. We don't leave anywhere anymore without saying 'I love you.' You definitely cherish the bonding time that you do have now."
All the support has also had an effect on Deb Hadley.
"It's a little overwhelming," she said. "Such kind gestures that are unexpected help heal your heart in a different way. It helps us to know that Kaylie and Tyler made a big difference and that people have embraced our family. I don't exactly know what to expect, but I know it will be an emotional experience. Our main goal for tonight is to make Kaylie and Tyler proud of us and make the world a better place because they were in it. We just have to trust that it's part of the plan."
She also wants other people to identify with their story and know they can get through any struggles that are thrown at them.
Leading up to tonight's game, Josh's hopes are simple: no rain, little to no hiccups, a good turnout and for people to come out and enjoy the evening remembering his siblings. He wants it to be more of a celebration than a memorial.
The equally important aspect is to raise money (helped by Minnesota Twins memorabilia) and awareness for the Epilepsy foundation, a huge cause for the Hadleys after Kaylie's death. The family hosted and participated in a 5K last year in which University of Minnesota Football coach Jerry Kill attended.
The Hadleys also plan to set up a scholarship fund at Wabasso High School in addition to the ones they have set up at Martin County West and Sleepy Eye St. Mary's and Sleepy Eye Public.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."