Ex-Wife to Marty Brown
As I walked down the aisle on that rainy, February evening in 1987, I had no idea of the life that lay ahead of me. I was an eighteen year-old, child bride embarking on my life with the man of my dreams. The man was a hometown hero whom I started dating during my senior year of high school. He had just recently signed a professional baseball contract. However, to me, he wasn’t a baseball player, he was the love of my life and I was marrying him. I couldn’t be more thrilled, more excited, and most importantly, more naïve!
We began our life together in Tampa, Florida, the winter home of the Cincinnati Reds at that time. We left the day after our huge, Catholic wedding in Rolla, Missouri (both of our home town) and headed south for spring training. We didn’t have much, a car we were making payments on, a couple of bags full of clothing, and our dreams of a bright, happy future together. We were young, we were in love, and we had our whole lives ahead of us and we were both ready for the adventure!
Time went on and I was quickly trained in the life of a wife of a professional baseball player. He was gone all the time and we were moved from city to city; team to team. We had our first son shortly after he made is major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds in 1988. At the time, Pete Rose was the manager and we were exposed to a lot of press and scandal, but never really got too involved in the baseball trap of fame and glory. We were a family and that is the way we presented ourselves. We had a young son and he and my husband were my whole world. I didn’t know anything different. I was now and forever (so I thought!) the wife a baseball guy. It wasn’t an easy life or “normal” life, but it was our life and I embraced everything about it…even the tough stuff.
Over the years, I moved more than 40 times (alone with the kids!), lived in at least a dozen or more cities and had two more children along the way! We lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Hiroshima, Japan, just to name a few!! He never had much success as a major league player here in the United States (for whatever reason, bad timing I suppose), but he did find success in Japan as a player. We finally had some financial gain from all of our efforts and things seemed to paying off for us as a family. We built our dream home in our home town and I thought we were settling in for a life together as a so called “normal” family. He retired from player in 1995 and we began our life in one place…finally….so I thought, again!
After a trip to St. Louis with our good friends Joe and Kim Oliver (we had been friends since our first season as a married couple) to watch the Cardinals play the Reds, I saw sadness in his face after he and Joe visited the clubhouse after the game. He didn’t say anything to me about returning to the game, but as his wife of more than ten years, I knew he had a “hankering” to get back in the game.
I talked to him about it and he confessed how much he missed the game and we decided as a couple that he would try his hand at managing. I typed up his resume and we sent it out to every major league baseball team in the country.
It wasn’t long until the offers started pouring in.
In the summer of 1997 he began his career as a baseball manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates in their rookie league. The life that I readily given up to be a full-time family was now back in the forefront of our lives. But, again, I needed to support my husband and that’s what I did. I sent him off to Florida for his first spring training as a manager and I stayed home with the kids (Jace 8, Alexia 6, and Zach, just 1) and tried to maintain some type of normalcy for them in this crazy life.
He became extremely successful as a minor league manager and had won every accolade that one could win in his position. He was “Minor League Manager of the Year”, “Baseball America’s Manager of the Year”, and made it to post-season play almost every year he managed. In 2004 he won the AAA International League Championship and was the manager for the AAA All-Star Team. He finally had the success he had craved. The kids and I traveled to see him every summer and a couple of years, I homeschooled the kids so we could be together all the time. It was hard, but worth it to keep our family unit intact.
After all our hard work, once again, the Japanese “came calling” and offered him a lucrative contract to manage in their major league system. I was heartbroken and scared.
I didn’t really want him to take the job because Jace was a junior in high school, Alexia was a freshman and just beginning her high school career and Zach was just in the third grade. I knew the time the Japanese would require of him and we would rarely see him, although we would travel to Japan in the summer. He really wanted to take the job, and I reluctantly agreed. I negotiated his contract for him and we settled on a 3-year-deal with plenty of accommodations for the family as well (housing, airfare, etc.). So, against my better judgment…he signed the dotted line and flew off to the Far East, leaving me and the three children at our home in Florida.
Up to this point in our marriage we had been happy. Was our marriage perfect? Of course not. Did we have some discord? Absolutely.
The biggest contention we had in our nearly 20-year-marriage was his desire to go out on the road and drink. I became increasingly frustrated with the all-night outings with the other players or coaches. I would have emergencies with the kids and wouldn’t be able to get a hold of him on many, many occasions. I would cry, stay up all night and worry, but he would apologize, promise to never to do it again, and then it would be repeated over and over again. He would go out, I would get angry, he would apologize, I would forgive and that was the cycle.
I did grow tired of this scenario, but never thought about leaving him. I threatened a few times (especially if a story about a female would surface), but I never thought that our marriage would ever end.
We had come this far and we were finally reaping the benefits of all of our sacrifices.
I just decided to live with it. These were the cards I was dealt and I had to keep them close to my chest. I didn’t share my frustrations with others. My sister knew and my Dad sensed a lot. I always protected him to friends, family, and fans. He was the greatest husband and father and that was my story. There were tough times, but we made it through. I was a survivor and my family meant the world to me, period. This was not negotiable. We would survive and I knew I had to be the strong one.
Fast-forward from his departure for Japan in January 2006 to April 2006. Just 3 months into his job in Japan and I received a phone call. My husband of nearly 20 years was on the line and I couldn’t believe what he was saying across the phone lines. He told me he didn’t want to be married anymore and he didn’t think it a good idea that the kids come over for the summer.
My heart fell to the bottom of knees.
Was I hearing him correctly? Was he asking for a divorce? Was he leaving the kids, too?
The room began to spin and I could barely collect myself after I hung up the phone. I first phoned my sister, hysterical and almost unable to speak. Her immediate thought was that someone had died. I couldn’t seem to get the words out. I somehow managed to tell the story and she booked the next flight to Florida from her home in Connecticut. She and my Dad arrived the next day, and literally picked me up off of the floor. I was devastated.
My next task was telling my 3 children. How would I do this? Not only had he dumped me over the phone, he left me with the task of telling our kids. I didn’t have any answers, no reasons, I was blank.
I decided to tell them exactly what he had told me, I didn’t know how else to break it to them. They wanted answers and I had none. I simply told them that Dad was not in his right mind and I was sure he would eventually come around. They cried, they screamed, they couldn’t sleep…and they couldn’t talk to their Dad.
He didn’t call, he didn’t answer his phone…. he was gone. I was left holding my life by a thread and trying to hold it together for them. Our life as we knew it had ended over a phone call from a foreign country. And the worst part was just beginning. I had this gut feeling that his sudden departure had something to do with a young, Japanese secretary who had visited our Florida home with other front office staff. She was very rude to me during the trip and extremely attentive to him. My gut was right.
It is now 4 years since that day and our lives are still a little wobbly, but we are all doing well. I am a nursing student, my oldest son Jace is pre-med major, my daughter Alexia started college at the University of Tampa and is now transferring to cosmetology school, and Zach is heading into the 8th grade. They are all loving and wonderful people and I love them with all of my heart.
They have been through the wringer and have made a lot of bad choices, but now have returned to the honor student, All-American kids they once were. Our family has changed, but our love for each other has only grown stronger. I am strong and quite frankly, have amazed myself! I have survived, and will keep surviving. My children will continue to thrive if it is the last thing I do on this earth, I will make sure of that. Our finances are tight, despite his lucrative success, but if money means that much to him…I hope he keeps it close.
He married the twenty-something Japanese girl (he is almost 50), and he has no relationship with either of my sons. My youngest son (now 14) has not had more than one- 5 minute conversation with his Dad since he was in 3rd grade. To me, this is unfathomable, but so is leaving one’s family in such a cowardly fashion. I wish him success and pity him too. He will never get these years back with our children and he has forever lost their respect.
The friends I met in baseball have, for the most part, been so supportive of my children and me. People really are amazing and the girls I sat in the stands with all those years ago have been some of my greatest assets in these hard times. Others have not been so supportive or have disappeared altogether. I say “good riddance” and wish them the best. Sometimes when these things happen it hits too close to home and people are reminded of their own troubled marriages. I don’t hold any grudges, I just wish them peace. Not only have the other wives been incredible, the fans that the kids and I gained relationships with over the years have been an amazing source of support. I have received heart-felt letters, cards, and even gifts from these amazing baseball supporters. I wouldn’t trade any of my time in the baseball life…I’ve met some of the greatest people over the years! I feel honored to have them among my friends.
If I had one piece of advice for any baseball wife it would be: Keep supporting your husband, put your family first, and please don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find your own way, live your own life, and have a back-up plan!! In the end, it’s just a game. It’s a wonderful game and I loved it then and have fond memories now…but it’s still just a game. Your family is what is the most important, not the amount of hits your husband gets or how big his contract is. Hang tough and believe in yourself. Best Wishes!
Lots of love….Kim
PS My favorite quote: “Even Superwoman needs a Plan B”! ~unknown