What's better than hitting a home run in the World Series?
Former Royals outfielder/first baseman Jim Eisenreich has an answer for that one. Sure, it was a joy to circle the bases on Major League Baseball's biggest stage, which Eisenreich did for both the Phillies and Marlins. But Eisenreich feels an even greater joy when he is able to help a youngster through the Jim Eisenreich Foundation for Children with Tourette's Syndrome.
Through the experiences he faced while battling Tourette's, Eisenreich has been an inspiration to children and parents throughout the Kansas City metro area. Those looking for answers can see a vibrant Eisenreich these days and use his reassuring voice as a source of comfort. Eisenreich was on the voluntary retirement list between 1984 and 1987 while undergoing treatment for Tourette's, an illness which causes involuntary tics and vocal sounds.
After getting the help he needed, Eisenreich signed with the Royals and jump-started a career which would last 13 more seasons.
"When I first talk to parents and their kids, they see me as a ballplayer," Eisenreich said. "But then they begin to see me as a person."
Eisenreich relates the stories of how he was able to push past the Tourette's barrier and others are encouraged it can happen for them as well.
"What really is cool for me is to see parents light up and say 'Wow, my kid is going to be OK,'" Eisenreich said. "That's better than hitting a home run in the World Series."
The Royals took a chance on Eisenreich in 1987 after the Twins had given up on him in 1984. At the time that Eisenreich left his beloved home-state Minnesota team, finding another job in baseball wasn't his priority.
"I just wanted my health," Eisenreich said. "The only reason I came back was that I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. When I signed with the Royals, I couldn't have walked into a better clubhouse. It didn't take long for them to make me feel part of the team."
Eisenreich found the proper medication and learned what he should eat and drink. Today, his story of health and happiness delivers a powerful message.
"I feel really comfortable and confident," Eisenreich said. "I have energy like I never had."
Eisenreich's comeback had an exclamation point in 1989 when he was selected as the Royals' Player of the Year. He hit .293 in 134 games with 59 runs batted in and 27 stolen bases.
"I never played for awards, but it was nice to get the acknowledgement," Eisenreich said. "I appreciated it. I think what it did was let me know that after making the comeback I could play and do pretty well."
Eisenreich, 53, finished his career with a .290 batting average. He was part of a world championship team in Florida and received the Tony Conigliaro Award in 1990, which is given to an MLB player who has overcome a significant obstacle in life.
Eisenreich, in addition to staying busy with his foundation, is involved with real estate and a networking business. He has four children who are flourishing in various activities.
Eisenreich's oldest daughter Lauren plays the outfield for the Missouri State softball team and eldest son Tyler is thriving as a singer, dancer and actor. He recently returned from a performance at the Minskoff Theater in New York City.
Through the years, Eisenreich has been a resource for other accomplished athletes who have Tourette's. Chris Jackson of LSU, a sweet-shooting guard who went on to a productive NBA career with the Denver Nuggets, had the benefit of speaking with Eisenreich. Jackson later took the name of Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf.
"Before they drafted him, the Nuggets' front office called me," Eisenreich said. "They said 'We don't know what all this is, but can you help us?' And so, I did. Eventually, I got to talk to Chris a couple of times."
For Eisenreich, a 15-year Major League career was great. But decades of helping youngsters who are battling Tourette's Syndrome is even more rewarding.
"In 2012, there are parents who are wondering what's going on with their kids," Eisenreich said. "We have become a resource for them to get answers to those questions. The thought is that they don't have to struggle to find the answers like I did."