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Former Express Pitcher Tosses Shutout Day After Mother’s Death From Cancer

Photo Credit: Christopher Smith (www.mrcameraimaging.com)

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota State University, Mankato played a baseball game at U.S. Bank Stadium last Friday night.

There’s nothing unusual there — until you learn the back story. The starting pitcher for the Mavericks, Brody Rodning, had dedicated the game to his number-one fan, for a very good reason.

Rodning warms up to pitch a game. He’s left handed with a 93-mile per hour fast ball that has scouts watching. But this game is different.

Last August, Brody’s older brother, McKoy, got married on a Saturday. The following Tuesday, their mother, Tiffany, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.

“Roller coaster of emotions. You go from my wedding, best day of my life, to Tuesday. Probably the worst day of my life,” McKoy Rodning said.

This mom had it all. A beautiful lady with a career at the State School Board Association, two sons she adored and a husband of 28 years. He was the star athlete at the rival school, Gaylord, and she was a standout at next door Winthrop.

“You know when she walked into a room, you wanted to talk to her. She was someone that lit up the room,” Brian Rodning, her husband and father to the two boys, said.

That’s who she was to everyone that met her.

“She was a people person. Everyone that knew her, they knew her. They knew she was great,” Brody Rodning said. “My great grandma called her ‘Precious Tiffany.’ She was precious.”

As she went through the agonizing process of cancer, she gathered her family and prepared them for her death.

“She said she knows her body and her time was coming soon and that she’s not scared,” McKoy said.

Last Thursday night, she passed away with her family by her side. When they came to get her body at 3 a.m., the mortician asked Brody a question.

“He says ‘I bet you’re pitching tomorrow’ and Brody says ‘Yes I am.’ He says, ‘You’re ready for this aren’t you?’ and Brody goes ‘I’ve never been more ready in my life,'” Brian said.

What followed was magical. With a huge following from their home towns of Gaylord and Winthrop showing up to show support.

“The connection that Tiffany had with our team was one that everybody knew her. That night everybody was going to give whatever they had to help the team out,” MSU-Mankato Baseball Coach Matt Magers said.

Brody took the mound, just like mom would have wanted.

“I did it for mom. I know that’s what she wanted me to do,” Brody said. “She told me.”

And what he did was a movie script. Dialing up his left arm, pitching his team to six scoreless innings and asking them to just give him one run.

“I know that she was sitting there cheering me on the whole time. There was no way I was not going to pitch that game,” Brody said. “I knew she had my back whenever I needed it. Sometimes I took a step off the mound and looked up to her, talked to her. She was there.”

When he recorded the final out, he had recorded a 1-0 shutout. He paused to look into the heavens, and talk to mom.

“I told her that I loved her and that it was for her. And thanked her,” Brody said.

When they gathered the team, his emotions finally let loose as his team gathered around him.

“We were spent but it was just one of those nights that I don’t think I’ll ever maybe be a part of again,” Coach Magers said.

And now they are healing, preparing for her funeral that she already planned. McKoy and his new wife announced to her they are expecting the first grandchild in August.

“There was two things she wanted to get through. She wanted to see the grand baby and she wanted to see her youngest son get drafted,” Brian said.

They have honored her with the chair she would sit in when she came to watch her son play baseball. The ultimate sports mom in many ways.

People waited two-and-a-half hours at the visitation to pay their respects at the funeral that was buoyed by her Christian faith. And her two boys placed their college jerseys on her casket, and there was much conversation about the game her son pitched for her.

Because Brody knows exactly how she would have felt about that special night, where she was his wind beneath his wing.

“She would’ve been so proud of me. She would’ve told me she loved me and would’ve given me a big hug and a big kiss,” Brody said. “She would’ve been so proud and I know she is.”

Tiffany had just turned 49 last week. Brody was honored as the Conference Pitcher of the Week.

The Express begin season number 13 in the Northwoods League on May 30 as they travel to Bismarck, N.D. for the inaugural series for the Bismarck Larks. They continue to Willmar to take on the Stingers for a two-game set before opening their home schedule at Carson Park on Saturday, June 3 versus the Mankato MoonDogs. First pitch of the home opener will be at 7:05 p.m. and the game will be followed by a fireworks show. Purchase your 5-Game Packs, including a reserved seat and unlimited food and beverage, online by clicking here or by contacting the Express office at 715-839-7788 or 102 E. Grand Ave. in downtown Eau Claire. Single-game tickets go on sale May 1.

The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS),two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM).  All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portalFor more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Express as your favorite team.