Talking Clayton Kershaw’s Herniated Disc with My Brother the Neurosurgeon

NOTE: By the time I got around to writing up this post, the news about Clayton Kershaw’s injury had taken a sudden turn for the hopeful so I left it to languish as a draft. Now that the news about Clayton has hit the proverbial fan, I’ll go ahead and publish this sucker. What follows is a transcript of a conversation I had with my little brother who happens to be the neurosurgeon in the family.

Todd and the Brain Surgeon

One of these guys is wearing a tacky t-shirt. The other grew up to be a neurosurgeon.

When it was announced Clayton Kershaw was going on the disabled list with a herniated disc, I fired off a quick text to my brother (he happens to be a neurosurgeon who specializes in spinal work) for some insight and reassurance that everything will be OK.

Because he also happens to be a busy neurosurgeon with three very young kids, I didn’t get a response from him until I finally cornered him at our family’s big 4th of July BBQ up in Northern Wisconsin.

ME: So what’s your thought on Kershaw’s injury?


ME: A herniated disc. He had an epidural last week.

MBTN: Oooh… that can be a tricky one.

ME: How so?

MBTN: Well, the epidural is only to take care of the pain. It doesn’t actually fix anything. Only rest or surgery can do that. If the hernia is small enough, there’s a chance the body can sometimes dissolve it with rest. The epidural was just to give his body a chance to relax and hopefully attack the hernia.


My brother and his catch of the day, the largest herniated disc he’s ever removed.


Look at the size of that thing. (Don’t worry, this hunk of meat is definitely the exception when it comes to herniated discs.)

ME: So is it a good sign that Kershaw had an epidural?

MBTN: No. It’s just the first step but if it was really bad they would have elected to go straight to surgery.

ME: But how do you know when to go for surgery?

MBTN: Either rest takes care of the herniated disc or the pain becomes too much to handle. There really isn’t any middle ground.

ME: But what if you’re an elite athlete? Let’s say you’re the best pitcher in the world, does that make a difference?

MBTN: It can only make a difference in the sense that he’s got a whole training staff on top of things but they’re not going to be able to do anything special for him. The fact that this was a big enough issue for him to go on the DL means I wouldn’t have him even touch a baseball for at least six weeks.

NOTE: In retrospect, this was probably a good idea.

ME: If Kershaw needs surgery, what’s that going to be like?

MBTN: Well, the surgery itself is pretty easy. You cut out the hernia and that’s it. The disc itself stays put and wouldn’t be damaged. It’s the recovery that takes a while.

ME: How long is the recovery?

MBTN: Again, everyone is different but 2017 could be a better year for the Dodgers.

ME: Really?

MBTN: Oh yeah, he wouldn’t throw again for this season for sure.

ME: Dang. Well let’s say Kershaw does need surgery but because he’s a bad ass he chooses not to have it, what could happen?

MBTN: He’d have to fight through a ton off pain and deal with some potential nerve damage but it’s not like he’d wind up paralyzed or anything. Depending on which vertebra  is affected he could still even pitch with nerve damage. It’d just feel like his leg was always asleep but eventually he would need surgery at some point. Then he should be as good as new.

ME: Thanks for the uplifting news I was looking for.

MBTN: Anytime.

Game 21: Rangers 3 – Twins 2

The matchup: Minnesota Twins vs Texas Rangers (7.1.16)
Special Guest: My lovely wife.
Snacks: Oh jeez… Bud Heavy tall boy, Bratwurst, Grain Belt tallboy, Surly IPA, nachos, a Dilly Bar (delivered to my seat!), creme brulee, and maybe something else that I’m forgetting.
Giveaway: Nope. But there was a post game fireworks show presented by South Dakota.
Memorable Moment: Snagging my first-ever foul ball (then giving it back to the dude who whiffed on catching it).

Target Field Cropped Pano

The view from behind home plate at Target Field is not too shabby.

RECAP: My wife and I spent the 4th of July with my extended family up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin so we scheduled a bonus day in Minneapolis to catch a Twins game before we made the drive up north.

I’m very pleased to report that Target Field more than lived up to the hype as one of the best places you will ever watch a ballgame. It was like it existed in a land of baseball make believe where someone set out to create the dream baseball experience from the ground up. Every aspect of the joint was so nice and serene that I wanted to grab the local who sat next to by the shoulders and scream, “DO YOU EVEN REALIZE HOW DARN TOOTIN’ GOOD YOU HAVE IT HERE?”

Thanks to the suggestions from the good people on r/minnesotatwins, (kids, always trust strangers on the internet) my game day experience started with a field trip to see the legendary Wally the Beerman at a bar called Sneaky Pete’s. Considering that any activity in LA beyond fetching your mail requires as much pre-planning as the Normandy Invasion, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered Sneaky Pete’s was only a block from our hotel which also happened to be a block from Target Field.

Batten down the hatches on your head because I’m about to blow your mind with how much stuff a person can accomplish in under an hour in Minneapolis.

6:10: I leave the hotel to go to Sneaky Pete’s.
6:15: Wally the Beerman serves me a Bud Heavy and we talk baseball for a spell.
6:35: I go back to the hotel to pick up my wife.
6:45: We depart for Target Field.
6:50: Our tickets are scanned and we enter the ballpark.

Because I’m that big of a nerd, I checked my steps as we walked out of our hotel lobby and again when we entered the stadium.

The total went up by 517.

To put that into a Dodger context, the old 76 Station out in the center field parking lot is probably farther away from Dodger Stadium than our hotel was from Target Field.

Our seats were right behind home plate in the Legends Club which is only available as a season ticket package, unless those ticket holders sell theirs on SeatGeek. Basically, it was as if the Loge Level at Dodger Stadium featured cushy club seating and access to the Stadium Club. In the case of Target Field though, the Stadium Club would be that level’s entire concourse with a slew of concession stands, bars, souvenir shops and a museum’s worth of Twins memorabilia.

The game itself was a great experience. Watching baseball is so relaxing when you’re not rooting for either team. We saw a couple home runs, gave old friend Adrian Beltre a respectful golf clap, and had some laughs. What more could you want?

The fans around us were totally Minnesota Nice, even to someone in their midst who was decked out in Dodger gear. The only comments I got were well wishes for Clayton Kershaw.

After a few innings, my wife and I realized the biggest difference between a Twins and Dodger game was just how quiet it is at Target Field. Twins fans were much more reserved in their cheering but the sound system was just background noise. Compared to Dodger Stadium, it was like watching a baseball game at Wimbledon. It wasn’t any worse, it was just different in an enjoyable way but the lack of in-stadium hosts between innings was a very welcome sight. You don’t realize how intrusive and obnoxious they are until they’re not around to scream at you.

Let’s tell the rest of the story in pictures.


Welcome to the land of Wally the Beerman and $4 tallboys.

Wally the Beerman

Wally the Beerman!


Wally gave me one of his 2016 baseball cards.


We entered through the right field plaza. The giant cube is a cleverly designed parking garage.


Brats! Brats! Brats!


The local swill.


The Twins sign in center field is an homage to their original logo.


The Budweiser Roof Deck features the only fire pit in an MLB ballpark.


Target Dog watches over the Target Field action from his Target Center post.

Dilly Bar

In-seat Dilly Bar delivery really had me questioning my loyalty to the Dodgers.


This guy was my favorite fan in our section, not just because he came to the game packing his own beer koozie…


but that he brought TWO different koozies. This guy was PRO in every sense of the word.


Target Field’s open-air press box was right behind our seats. I asked the usher if they’ve ever had problems with fans yelling at the media (like Dodger fans would heckle Bill Plaschke if given the opportunity) and he just chuckled and said it’s never been an issue on his watch.


The mascot race made me realize we have yet to see Mustard Mike or Ketchup Katie at Dodger Stadium this season.


After a couple hundred or so MLB games, I finally had my mitts on a foul ball, until I gave it to the back to the kid who had it ricochet off his hands. It landed on the walkway behind us and I turned and scooped it up without even leaving my seat. It should noted that the “kid” was probably in his early 20s and returning it to him after he had his chance sparked a pretty hilarious debate in our section over finders vs keepers. Had this happened at Dodger Stadium I would have kept it no question, unless the person who whiffed was an actual kid.


Obligatory photo of the guy who led the ‘give it back’ side, only because he’s wearing sunglasses at night.

Dessert Cart

Having done my good deed for the decade, I felt I earned a second dessert.

Creme Brulee

This was only $6!!!

Target Field Selfie

Only took us 10 years to branch out and visit a different ballpark together.


So far this season, the Twins have activated their Papa John’s deal 30 times. Meanwhile, the Dodgers, who only need to score 5 runs, win or lose, have activated theirs 38 times.

Fireworks - South Dakota

I wasn’t joking. The fireworks show really was presented by South Dakota.


Thanks for the show, South Dakota.

Twins sign after the fireworks

The Target Field sign following the fireworks. It’s like the spirit of Prince was hanging in the air.


A young fan pays his respects to Kirby Puckett.