When it was over, Mike had only about a half-hour to kill before he had to rush to Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport to catch his flight to South Carolina. (Clemson, as Susan pointed out, paid for not only that flight, but also two others that Mike needed to take to meet with doctors regarding the transplant.) Mike went to his brother’s room, and for a few moments it was just the three of them — Susan, Matt and Mike.
“I came in, and [Matt] just started to cry and said, ‘I’m sorry,’” Mike recalled, his eyes welling up. “I said, ‘Look, this is something we’ve got to do.’ He was pretty upset, [and] my mom was pretty upset. I said, ‘Look guys, we’re a family here.’ ”
“Everyone has their own struggles, their own problems,” Mike continued. “This is my own struggle. [With] this disease, you never know. There’s never a guarantee he’s going to get better. Every minute I spend with him is precious time. [But] I never feel overwhelmed. This is the hand that was dealt to me.”
That day, after the transplant, Mike Kent made his flight back to South Carolina, and he hasn’t been back home since.
He hasn’t seen his brother in more than a month now, although they spoke by phone or texted with each other frequently, before the liver problem cropped up and Matt was sent to ICU.
Four days after the transplant, Mike pitched again — getting the win with five sterling innings of relief against Georgia Tech. A curveball specialist with impeccable command, he carries a 3.76 ERA into the NCAA regionals, along with the lowest walk rate (2.3 per nine innings) on Clemson’s staff.
He’ll get home again in another week or two — maybe three if the Tigers make it to the College World Series. He figures his first stop will be the hospital.
They will be closer now than ever, Matt and Mike Kent, the same blood coursing through their veins.