Ben Petrick wondered about Kirk Gibson last year. He saw the mannerisms, listened to the sound bites from the normally energetic D-backs manager and thought the changes looked familiar.
He'd lived them.
"It was like watching me all over again," Petrick said as he returned home from errands Sunday morning in Oregon.
Petrick has Parkinson's disease. He knew it for most of his big league career, though his teammates didn't. Petrick dealt with the symptoms during his final Major League stop in 2003, playing for the Tigers, where Gibson was his outfield coach.
Petrick was a former prospect, and Gibson was trying to get the talent to emerge. As Gibson embarks on the toughest challenge of his life, Petrick is the experienced veteran. He has dealt with Parkinson's for more than a decade now, and he leads as close to a normal life as he can as a dad, husband, coach, author and speaker.
"I've told the people that I know that if he wants to call me or if there's anything I can do, I'd be happy to," Petrick said. "I'd love to chat with him."
The 2003 Tigers had many stories on their way to 119 losses. Petrick's story might have been the most surprising. It didn't come out until he announced his retirement in '04 and revealed his condition.
Petrick couldn't hide it anymore, and he couldn't play through it. The fact that he did the latter for so long was incredible.
By 2003, the former Rockies catcher had been converted into an outfielder. The Tigers acquired Petrick at midseason for pitcher Adam Bernero, who was 1-12 by July 4 and needed to get out. It was intended as a fresh start for both.
Petrick needed medication, Sinemet, to play, to let his body move in coordination. The side effects eventually affected his everyday life.
"I had taken the drug for two years. I was only four years into my disease," Petrick said. "I shouldn't have been taking it, but I did it to play baseball. In 2003, my movements weren't the same as they had been in my life. I was in a weird stride [running], weird load [when batting]. That's when I knew my days were numbered."
Petrick batted .225 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 43 games with Detroit that year, fairly impactful for that team. He went to Spring Training with the Tigers the next year, then was released. After a couple of Triple-A stops, including one in Toledo, Petrick retired and then revealed all.
Asked what his time was like with Gibson, Petrick said, "My experience, I wouldn't say [was] positive, but I wouldn't say negative. He was Kirk Gibson. He was [tough], but he was about winning. He's a legend, and I respect him for that."
That background, that picture of health, should help Gibson in his fight with the disease. The toughness part doesn't hurt, either.
"With him being as good of a shape as he's in, and as strong-minded as he is, we all know what he's done," Petrick said. "I have no doubt he'll be able to stay on top of the disease and have a productive life."
Petrick has done that, though he was diagnosed at a much younger age. In 2009, he underwent a procedure called deep brain stimulation that nearly cost him his life, but it allowed him to regain some control. Petrick can run, play basketball and stay active. Petrick says his speech is affected, but he converses easily, and he has no doubt that medication will allow Gibson to continue his broadcasting career if he wants.
Petrick enjoyed his time in Detroit, brief as it was. He still gets a Christmas card from fellow ex-Tiger Warren Morris. Petrick's support group, in and out of baseball, helped get him through.
"When you first get diagnosed, you kind of feel like everybody's eyeballing you," Petrick said. "It's great to have people come up and say, 'We're here for you.' I'm sure with Gibby, people will support him."
Petrick will gladly be one of them if Gibson wants. Parkinson's ended Petrick's career early, but his life has rolled on.
"I wouldn't say I'm trying to be an example," he said. "I'm trying to live this life. If people have the disease and it gives them hope, then I'm glad. I'm trying to stay active and healthy for my kids. It's not a normal life, but I've been able to live a productive life. If that helps people, then I'm happy."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.