Omaha’s Clayton Mortensen looks for biggest win — his son’s victory over cancer

Matt Mortenson (Courtesy Janna Mortenson)

Day by day is the approach baseball players maintain when they take the field.

Omaha Storm Chaser pitcher Clayton Mortensen has been using that off the field as well.

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Before his last appearance against the Round Rock Express recently, his 3-year-old son Miles had some exciting news.

No, little Miles didn’t get another tooth, get dressed by himself or pedal a tricycle for the first time.

His scans all came back clear. Young Miles has been battling stage 4 neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer, for the last nine months in Arizona while Daddy has been pitching. The scans showed that all the treatments have worked so far and Miles is in remission. An outpouring of support from teammates, fans and the entire Kansas City Royals organization has made an incredibly trying time for Mortensen a lot easier.

In October, Miles was taken to a Peoria, Ariz., hospital emergency room after having a fever for seven consecutive days. He was soon diagnosed with neuroblastoma and a couple of days later he was already starting chemotherapy.

“Normally we would be out on the road with Clayton,” said Janna Mortensen, Clayton’s wife. “With our oncologist being (in Peoria) that is not an option. Most nights we watch the games on my phone. When Clayton is pitching Miles is always on the lookout for him. He is excited to see his Dad out there. He picks up his (toy) baseball. He yells things to Clayton.”

Clayton Mortensen has found support though. Fellow pitcher Buddy Baumann has been his biggest supporter. “It is hard to approach someone when their son is dealing with (cancer),” said Baumann.

“He’s kept it pretty hush-hush,” Baumann. “He doesn’t want to make a big scene. Every opportunity he has though you see him do FaceTime with Janna and Miles.”

Miles Mortenson and his father, Omaha pitcher Clayton Mortenson. (Courtesy Janna Mortenson)
Miles Mortenson and his father, Omaha pitcher Clayton Mortenson. (Courtesy Janna Mortenson)

Baumann felt compelled to do more than just be a good listener and support Mortensen with encouragement. Storm Chaser teammates Louis Coleman, Casey Coleman and Michael Mariot were within ear shot when Baumann began to think out loud.

“In the bullpen you have nine innings to talk about all kinds of stuff,” said Baumann. “I said ‘What are we doing? (Clayton’s) kid is sick. Why haven’t we done anything? The least we could do is think about doing something for him; take care of him because we are with him for six months.’”

Ideas were bounced around. With the support of both the Storm Chaser and Royal front offices, a “Let’s Go Miles” silent auction took place on June 6. There were 35 items to bid on including a George Brett autographed bat, an autographed 2014 Royals ALCS bottle of champagne, a Baumann autographed glove and the rarest of items, a Russell Wilson autographed football jersey. Baumann shares the same agent as Wilson.

The auction raised $9,000 and team owner Gary Green matched that with his own $9,000 donation.

“These are actually people in the uniforms, not big super heroes,” said Janna. “They are actually good, amazing people that have feelings and look after each other. You gain a whole new respect for them.”

“That’s Buddy,” said Omaha general manager Martie Cordaro, who pointed out several other occasions where Baumann extended his hand to help. “He genuinely cares about Omaha, his teammates and the fans. It is just the way Buddy lives. He is not only good for representing (the Storm Chasers), he is fantastic.”

Radiation, stem cell transplants and an adult dose of chemotherapy worked in Miles’s favor. According to Janna, the clear scans do not guarantee that he has beaten cancer.

“But it’s really good that his body is responding so well,” said Janna. “We don’t know if or how long we will have Miles around. Just the fact that (Clayton) is missing this times with him makes it really hard on him.”

Baumann, his teammates and Cordaro have been making it a little easier every day.

Above: Miles Mortensen has had a clean scan on his latest checkup. He also has the support of the Omaha Storm Chasers, where his dad Clayton is a pitcher. (Courtesy Janna Mortensen)
Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand

Keith Chartrand is a freelance writer based in Ocala, Fla.