LAKELAND, Fla. — Joe Siddall lost his 14-year-old son, Kevin, to blood cancer last month.
A few days later, Toronto Blue Jays radio voice Jerry Howarth read about the tragedy in Bob Elliott’s column in the Toronto Sun and sent condolences to Siddall in an email.
Siddall — who had a cup of coffee with the Detroit Tigers as a catcher in 1998 and has thrown batting practice for the team in recent years — smiled at the kind words of his long-time friend.
"I finished my response (to Howarth’s email) by saying, ‘See you in Detroit,’" Siddall said before Tuesday’s Tigers-Blue Jays game. "I was going to be throwing B.P. again. And in jest, I added, ‘Or maybe in the broadcast booth one day.’"
As it turns out, former Tigers and Blue Jays pitching ace Jack Morris had just walked away from the radio analyst job for the team’s flagship station.
That led Howarth to respond back to Siddall’s comment about the broadcast booth.
"I said, ‘How about now?’" Howarth recalled Tuesday.
Siddall, 46, of Windsor, Ont., came in for an interview and got the job.
"He’s such a wonderful person," Howarth said, "and he knows the game so well.
I told Joe, ‘For the next 20 years, you are going to be a great broadcaster. And every game, write Kevin’s name in your scorecard.’
"Getting the job was such a wonderful moment for him and his wife, Tamara, and their three other children."
Howarth’s eyes filled with tears.
Siddall pointed to the lime green wristband he wears that’s inscribed #FFK.
"That’s what I write in my scorebook after the names of the teams," Siddall said. "It stands for ‘Fight For Kevin,’ and that was what we did for him.
"Doing this is a great distraction for me, but losing Kevin will change our lives forever."
Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline and designated hitter Victor Martinez spoke with Siddall around the batting cage before Tuesday’s game. Each gave him a warm embrace before departing, as did Detroit radio analyst Jim Price outside the broadcast booths at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Siddall, who also played for the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins in a 73-game career, was a stay-at-home dad who coached his kids. Now he’s sticking in the majors behind a microphone.
How does he explain it?
"It’s a crazy world we live in," Siddall said. "We spent a terrible six months watching Kevin die of a horrible disease that could not be cured, and now I am doing this."
He shook his head.
"God’s will be done," Howarth said. "That’s how I explain it."