Tight-knit Lindbloms 'have lived this life' before

July 11th, 2020

MILWAUKEE -- Everyone has their own perspective on playing baseball in the middle of a pandemic, but few have more varied perspectives to process than Josh and Aurielle Lindblom.

Consider the different ways the Lindbloms are looking at the current situation:

1. Josh, the Brewers right-hander, is 33 years old, and while he has the security of a three-year contract, he is pitching better than ever before, and common sense says he is closer to the end of his playing career than the beginning. Every season is precious.

2. The family is returning to Major League Baseball after Josh played the bulk of the past five seasons in South Korea, where he won the league’s version of the Cy Young Award each of the past two years and was also league MVP in 2019. He was a Spring Training start or two removed from making an official return to MLB when the pandemic forced camps to close in March. He’s eager.

3. They are a tight-knit family with three children, including a daughter, Monroe, who was born in 2016 with a heart defect. She has already had two open-heart surgeries and needs at least 3-4 more. She may be at higher risk if she contracts COVID-19.

“We have lived this life ever since I was pregnant with Monroe,” Aurielle said Saturday afternoon, while the kids busied themselves on a Milwaukee-area playground. “We have had to be aware of our symptoms, our bodies, what people are bringing in. We use hand sanitizer like crazy and we always have.”

Said Josh, who projects to open the season in the Brewers’ starting rotation: “After Monroe's first open-heart surgery when she was a week old, it was flu season. So there were protocols that we took when it was flu season. If you were sick, we didn't celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas with you. If you had a runny nose, you didn't come over. No one held her. Everyone was washing their hands and we had hand sanitizer set up all over the house.

“So we were kind of ready for this, but that doesn't ease your mind all the way. I know that I have a responsibility to protect her when I go to the field and take the extra precautions, it's necessary.”

The family learned useful lessons in Korea, where children underwent daily, year-round temperature checks at schools and playgrounds, Aurielle said. Masks were commonplace and the kids got used to wearing them whenever they went out. The family developed a habit of avoiding public restrooms.

When baseball resumed and players pondered going back to work, it was never really a question for Josh, according to Aurielle, who said, “We don’t have the liberty financially. We need this. We just had to figure out what we needed to do to keep our family, to keep Monroe, safe. Everything the team has been doing so far has been awesome.”

The good news is that Monroe is doing “great,” Josh said. Her next doctor’s appointment is in August, and the Lindbloms have heard great things from Travis Shaw’s family about the care at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, should there be a need. Shaw’s daughter, Ryann, was born with a similar condition in 2017 while he played for the Brewers.

“You’d never know she has had two open-heart surgeries,” Josh said. “She runs around. She’s just a normal 3-year-old girl who knows she runs the house.

“One of the biggest challenges of this is our kids aren’t going to sit in the house all day. Finding safe ways to get out and not expose ourselves [to the virus], just to be smart. Kids are going to be kids. They are going to lick monkey bars and eat dirt and stuff like that. We try to limit them from doing that.”

The Lindbloms were particularly touched by manager Craig Counsell’s gesture on the first day of Summer Camp workouts, when he organized a Zoom session on the Miller Park scoreboard with players’ wives and families. Among the participants were Aurielle and the kids, who knew about the event for days and managed to keep it a secret.

“The one thing that hasn't been described is the context that it happened in. Everybody thought it was just kind of like a cool thing to have the families Zoom in, but the context was these are the people that we're taking care of, too,” Josh said. “We had team meetings and Brock Holt said, 'I'm doing this for your daughter, I'm doing this for all the newborns.' That's the context that was happening in, so it was really powerful for Counsell to do that.”

Lindblom remains in close contact with a number of players in Asia, where leagues have been active for months. He is troubled by the recent surge in cases in some areas of the U.S., but struck a hopeful tone.

“I think we just need to take it seriously,” he said. “You watch the news media, you read newspapers, you watch stuff online, and the bottom line is just taking care of each other. It’s looking out for the interests of somebody else. It’s making sacrifices for somebody else. Nobody probably likes wearing a mask, but it’s not hard to wear one out in public. It’s these small little sacrifices we can make to ensure the safety of those around us.”

The family has been making a point to find positives.

“I haven’t spent a summer in my hometown for 13 [years],” said Josh, who hails from Indiana. “So there are some little blessings in this when I look for them. Obviously, I love playing baseball and I want to be with my teammates, but I think it’s provided some needed time for us as a family.”

“There’s been a lot of time at home that we’re not used to, and time to reflect,” Aurielle said. “But right now, I’m hopeful for a season. I think everyone needs baseball.”