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Heavy-hearted Scherzer discusses brother's death

ARLINGTON -- The statement Max Scherzer read about his late brother, Alex Scherzer, on Tuesday seemed almost as difficult for him to get through as the pitching performance he made last Saturday, two days after his brother passed away.

In both cases, he felt like it was something he had to do, no matter how agonizing it was. In the case of the statement, he had a little bit of time to put down his thoughts, which he wanted to do before making a public comment.

Scherzer's voice hesitated as he talked about how his brother will be remembered, the influence his younger sibling had on his career, the arguments they had about sports, numbers, anything. His eyes watered a bit as he talked about his brother's future, fresh out of University of Missouri with an MBA and a job with Morgan Stanley in St. Louis.

But like Saturday, Max Scherzer got through it. And as tough as it was, he felt better for doing it.

"He had so many positive things ahead in his life, which makes this tragedy even harder to swallow," Scherzer said, reading his statement. "Alex made this world a better place and anybody I have ever talked to that knew him could only say how much fun they had being around him. Alex was the best brother I could have asked for, and he will always be missed."

Alex Scherzer was just 24 years old when he died last week. Max Scherzer left the team on Thursday to go home to grieve with his family. That process, it turns out, took him back to the ballpark.

Scherzer's family told him that if he was fine to pitch on Saturday, that he should go to Pittsburgh and make his scheduled start. He said he wasn't going unless they came along.

Together, they decided to go to Pittsburgh, his parents, his aunt and his cousin at his side.

"It was best for my family, it was best for everybody involved, for me to go ahead and make that start on Saturday," he said. "It gave us a chance to get out of the house. It gave us a chance to put a smile on everybody's face, and just a chance to have something we'd love and laugh about, and that's baseball."

For them, it was special. For him, it was still excruciating. When he should've been thinking of the Pirates, he was thinking of Alex.

"It was the most difficult start I've ever had to make in my life, but it was worth it."
-- Max Scherzer

"I thought it was going to be kind of the back in my mind and competitive spirit was going take over," he said. "It wasn't like that the other day. For me, it was on the forefront of every single pitch. That's why it was very difficult. It was the most difficult start I've ever had to make in my life, but it was worth it, because everybody that was close to me, my family, they gave me a chance to get out there and have a smile, get out there and enjoy life. And that's the most important thing."

To hear Scherzer talk about his brother and his influence, it made sense. Alex Scherzer was his brother's biggest fan, as well as maybe his biggest antagonist. When Max Scherzer first became a Tiger two years ago, and his fascination with numbers and statistics became apparent, he said then it was Alex who got him into it. As good as the elder Scherzer was with numbers, having studied business finance at Missouri, his young brother was better.

That doesn't mean Max Scherzer always admitted it.

"He got me into that type of thinking," he said. "I remember arguing with him, 'There's just no way that can be right.' You only see baseball from the mound. You never thought you could put a number on it or evaluate it from a different angle. And yet, probably for a year, he kept chipping away at me and saying, 'See? Look at this. I called it.' Finally, I was like, 'You're onto something.' There were some other driving forces to what makes a successful pitcher beyond just the normal scouting reports, executing pitches and all that.

"That was a part of the game that we shared, to have that type of mind to be able to see it from both sides. No one way is right. That's I think [what] he brought to me."

That doesn't mean they stopped arguing.

Max Scherzer's statement
  • The passing of my brother, Alex, has been extremely difficult. His brilliance and great sense of humor left all those around him in constant awe. He always knew just what to say to put a smile on my face, or leave me laughing out loud.
  • I am going to miss our debates over sports, politics or anything for that matter, especially his uncanny way he always left me thinking he was right.
  • For those who didn't know him he had just graduated with a MBA from the University of Missouri and started working for Morgan Stanley in St. Louis. He was amazing his new co-workers in how fast and well he was completing the initial training at his new job. He had so many positive things ahead in his life which makes this tragedy even harder to swallow.
  • Alex made this world a better place and anybody I have ever talked to that knew him could only say how much fun they had being around him. Alex was the best brother I could have asked for and he will always be missed.

"That's honestly what I'm going to miss the most, having those debates with him," Scherzer said. "We argued about anything, and he had just the funniest ways to make his point and just had so many sayings. I think that's what everybody is going to miss the most.

"He wasn't just book smart. He was street smart, too. Everybody who knows him, that's the one word that resonates with everybody is brilliance. That's the way you'd describe Alex. He had a dry sense of humor, but it was brilliant the way he used it. Any conversation you had, he had an uncanny way to always make you think he was right."

Alex Scherzer wasn't there to tell his brother what was the right thing to do Saturday, but Max Scherzer and his family figured it out. As tough it was, he doesn't regret it.

The numbers were one side, saying he threw six innings of three-hit ball in defeat after an Andrew McCutchen homer. The emotional side was tougher to measure until he was out.

"That start, I had to be extremely strong to stay through that. After the sixth inning, when I was pulled, that's when it all came out," he said.

Scherzer is scheduled to pitch on Thursday to open the Tigers' four-game series at Tampa Bay. He's scheduled to fly out the next day and return home to St. Louis, where a memorial service for his brother is scheduled for Sunday.

At some point, maybe Thursday, it'll start getting easier. It didn't sound easy on Tuesday.

"He had so much going for him," Scherzer said. "He had just gotten a new job at Morgan Stanley. I was waiting to hear how spectacular it was to finish those three tests in a matter of four weeks and to be able to get 90 percent on those. I know that's good. I'm waiting to hear how good. He was in a position in his life to have so much success. It's just a tragedy that he wasn't able to do that."

In lieu of flowers, the Scherzer family is requesting donations go to Boys' Club of St. Louis.

Detroit Tigers, Max Scherzer