Courageous Loe a valuable member of Angels family

Writer, 56, has covered more than 2,500 games despite challenge of cerebral palsy

Courageous Loe a valuable member of Angels family

ANAHEIM -- It began with Torii Hunter and it ended with Mike Trout, as things normally do around here. The bet stated that if the Angels won 10 in a row, Kurt Loe -- a franchise fixture going on four decades -- would get up out of his battery-powered wheelchair and, for the first time, walk.

Terms were laid out in 2012, Hunter's final season in Anaheim and Trout's first full one in the Major Leagues. But the deal wasn't consummated until the stretch run of '14, when the Angels finally attained the 10-game winning streak that made Loe hold up his end of the bargain. Trout didn't forget. Two Septembers ago, he looked on as a couple of clubhouse attendants carefully lifted Loe by the armpits, then watched Loe pick his left foot off the ground and will it forward.

Amusement turned to chills, which manifested into applause. Angels vice president of communications Tim Mead, the man who helped weave Loe into the fabric of this organization 31 years ago, still gets a rush just thinking about it.

"Kurt, man," Trout said recently. "What a great guy. He's always here. Win, lose, he's always here to support us. And he's always got a smile on his face."

Loe was born with cerebral palsy, a condition that only strengthened his resolve.

This was 56 years ago, at a military hospital in Honolulu while his father, a Marine named Gerry, was stationed in Pearl Harbor. Loe's mother, Muriel, was told her son would have severely limited physical and mental abilities. But then Loe learned to count to 10 in German by the age of 2, and Muriel began to realize that the doctors had been all wrong about her little boy.

Aileen (front), Kurt (middle), Gerry (back) and Muriel (left) Loe.Courtesy of the Loe family

She watched him go mainstream for middle school and high school, graduate from Cal State Fullerton with a journalism degree, write his own column for a weekly publication and, fortuitously, contribute stories for the Angels' official magazine.

Loe covered his 2,500th game on Opening Day, which once again fell on a Monday. He's missed only about 35 games since the Angels made him a regular in the spring of 1985.

"I'm just awed, because I know what his challenges are, and I find myself saying, 'I don't know how you do it,'" Muriel, now 86, said. "Every day is a challenge for him, in many ways. To be able to just carry on in spite of all this, it's just miraculous. He just keeps going, one day at a time."

Loe's disorder sapped his motor skills, stunted his growth and made him immobile, but it has done nothing to alter his recall, intelligence or sensibilities. He turns his head only slightly, gestures softly with his right arm and has the use of just three fingers, but he'll never complain.

Sometimes -- many times -- coming to the ballpark is excruciatingly difficult for Loe, because he isn't feeling well or he isn't getting the proper help. But he is there, usually 81 times a season, with an Angels cap on his head and Trout's custom-made Nikes on his feet, still brand new and 2 1/2 sizes too big.

Loe has adored baseball his entire life, ever since moving from Falls Church, Va., to Vista, Calif., in the spring of 1964 and finding out about a man named Sandy Koufax. But it isn't even about the game.

"I need the people," Loe said. "I need these people in my life. And if I don't come out to this ballpark, I don't get them."

It's Chuck Finley, Loe's all-time favorite, checking up on him immediately after a complicated surgery to remove his gallbladder. It's Jim Edmonds wheeling him around the clubhouse after exhilarating wins. It's Mike Scioscia saying hello in the aftermath of difficult losses. It's Joe Maddon grabbing a plate of food, pouring a cold Sam Adams into the metal thermos that sits on the clear tray of Loe's wheelchair, and talking about the game.

Loe, Joe Maddon (left), David Eckstein (right), Aaron Sele (behind Eckstein) and Alex Ochoa after the Angels won the World Series in 2002.Courtesy of the Loe family

They did this almost every night in the 13 years Maddon served on the Angels' coaching staff.

"This guy is capable of being in somebody's front office," Maddon said. "I'm not exaggerating. He's that knowledgeable about the game. He doesn't miss anything."

Loe's younger sister, Aileen, recalls how he used to keep score of three baseball games at a time, two on the radio and one on TV. John Martinez, one of his primary caregivers for the past 11 years, still asks for Loe's help on writing assignments for Santa Ana College.

Loe has been writing for the Angels' in-house publications since 1991, most recently filing a story about Garrett Richards.

Loe said he's "damn proud" about what he's accomplished, and he isn't afraid to say so.

"I mean, I wasn't supposed to do this," Loe said. "I literally wasn't supposed to be smart enough to do any of this stuff."

Loe has lived in the same apartment complex since his college days. Nearly all of his walls are covered by memorabilia, none of which he's ever really asked for. In one frame, on the wall next to his bed, lie the notes distributed to the media prior to his 1,000th game. A message is scribbled above it in black marker. It reads, "The first 1,000 is the hardest!" It's signed, "Cal Ripken Jr."

"A blessing," Loe called all of this. "This is a gift."

Loe hates having to rely on others to perform day-to-day tasks. His constant concern is that he is being a burden on others, even though it's never the case. And his favorite people, he said, are the ones that "see past the chair," like Maddon and Edmonds and Trout and, especially, Finley.

Sometimes Aileen's voice cracks when she talks about her only sibling. It happened again, when asked about his greatest qualities.

Kurt, Aileen (right) and Muriel (left).Courtesy of the Loe family

"His courage," she said. "He has a lot of courage. He's determined. And he doesn't want to be labeled in any way. He wants to be as normal as he can. He's just very focused on being independent."

Aileen described Loe's offseasons as "a desert," because the absence of baseball brings such emptiness. Loe spent a lot of time at Disneyland last winter, where he now has another network of friends. But most of his days were spent anticipating a 2016 season that many do not expect to turn out favorably for his team.

Loe sees the Angels as "a team in transition," one that will ween off the free-agent splurging and steer its focus towards building a stronger foundation. He likes to think of it as "reloading," not "rebuilding," and though he's well aware of the deficiencies on the roster, he believes the Angels can compete this season.

For proof, he began to rattle off the jersey numbers of Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun, Yunel Escobar, Johnny Giavotella, Huston Street, Joe Smith, Richards and Trout.

"They're competitive," Loe said. "Any time you compete, you have a chance."

He should know.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and Facebook , and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.