Favorite athlete: Roy Halladay
Favorite team: Phillies
Favorite memory competing in sports: Pitching a complete game last year against Council Rock North after my recovery.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Pop fly hit off the tip of my glove and then hit me in the face.
Music on iPod: Hip Hop/Rap
Future plans: Become a physical therapist
Words to live by: “Never give up”
One goal before turning 30: Have my own house
One thing people don’t know about me: How much I have to do out of school and my responsibilities.
By GORDON GLANTZ
If Harry S Truman senior Brian Aicher were to look back, he would see a boyhood cut short by forces out of his control.
Because of the way he handled the adversity, the boy became a man. And the man that he is has no choice but to look ahead.
As the ace of Truman’s pitching staff, Aicher’s senior season has been a series of quality starts resulting in losses in the won-loss column for the struggling Tigers.
His coach, Tim Monaghan, uses the term “hard-luck pitcher” when describing Aicher, but just the fact that he is on the mound – after dealing with career-threatening injuries and while working to support his family after the death of his 39-year-old father to a stroke – is a victory in and of itself.
“The full student-athlete definition definitely fits Brian,” said Monagan. “He has battled injury, and personal obstacles. He does all of this and is one of our top pitchers, while maintaining a 3.10 GPA. He has been accepted to a number of colleges -- Widener, Slippery Rock, Mercer County Community -- but finances are an obstacle. He has been working a part-time job while working out in the fall/winter and (he) continues during the season. There are days when we allow Brian to miss practice to work, because it is a necessary task to help his family.”
Typically, such an arrangement – allowing a player to miss practice to work – would meet with derision within a team.
But that's not the case with Aicher, who has the full respect of his coaches and teammates.
“There is not one ounce of resentment, because this is what we have to do for him to be able to still play baseball,” said Monaghan. “As a coach, you like to have the same rules and same expectations for everyone. In reality, they just can’t apply equally to everyone. By no means is he trying to get out of anything. He is a full-time student-athlete who is also trying to do the best he can for his family.
“Because he is a pitcher only, and has an opportunity to go out and earn money to help his family, we just have to be as flexible as possible. He needs to go and work. It’s just another obstacle he has had to overcome.”
And this job is not exactly flipping burgers, checking tickets at a movie theater or handing out miniature golf gear.
“I cut metal and build parts for panels that go to New York City to go onto buildings,” said Aicher. “My friend needed someone to work with, so he asked me. Before baseball (season), I would work about 35-40 hours a week but now, with baseball, I try to work at least 20-25 hours a week.”
Instead of being bitter about the extreme scenario, the son of the late Brian Sr. and Lisa Saylor has turned his thoughts around into a positive.
“I think of it as it might help me be more successful in the long run in my life,” he said. “Instead of sleeping or sitting around, I see it as an opportunity to get myself ready to accomplish things in life. I got that from a quote I saw a long time ago that said ‘I’ll sleep when I’m successful’ or another one that said ‘don’t wait on an opportunity, create one.’ I’ve always been interested in motivational quotes.”
First to Fight
And although Aicher theoretically has the opportunity to attend college now, he is willing to expose himself to more motivational quotes by doing a stint in the Marines and then attending college with the financial help that commitment provides.
At present, this major decision – one that did not come easily – hinges on word from his Marine recruiter.
“Right now, the recruiter is finding out if my tattoo meets the regulations,” said Aicher, who was quick to add that “the only branch of the military I would enlist in is the Marines” but that they have the “most strict” tattoo regulations.
And its mottos such as “the few, the proud” and “uncommon valor” are not lost on him. If he is going to march, he is going to march with who sees as the best.
“It is known to be the most difficult (of the military branches),” he said. “I would like to do the biggest challenge I could do so I can push myself and be better than I was before.”
“My family doesn’t think I should go either but I think it would be a good decision for financial reasons because they help with college,” said Aicher. “Yes, I have considered the risks and my family is very concerned.”
Presuming a tattoo he described as “tribal,” gets the okay, the Marines will be getting someone who has already been through his share of personal battles.
Aicher says his father had battles with alcohol, which hastened his medical decline and death on September 26 of 2016.
“To lose a parent, especially at that age, is a difficult thing,” said Monaghan. “I can’t pretend to know what kind of role his dad had in his life, and I can’t imagine having to deal with that.”
It was at that point that things got real, and real fast. An only child, it was on him to keep a roof over the heads of himself and his mother when his father became ill.
“Things changed a lot because I had to give up a lot of time to just go and work to try and keep the bills paid,” said Aicher. “It got to the point where we almost got kicked out and I had to start selling some of my things around the house. Then once I got home from work I would have to take care of (my dad) and drive him or my mom where they needed to go. I felt as if all the responsibilities of the household were on me to handle.”
“For baseball, it meant a lot because he used to go to every game and practice I had, but once he got sick he couldn't make it there anymore. As for life in general, him getting sick had a big impact on me because of having to see him in pain. Then, as it got worse, he couldn’t work and I had to give up playing baseball for the summer to work and help pay the bills. I cared about him a lot and tried to make him worry about the least he had to.”
Additionally, his mother dealt with some serious health issues.
“Yes, she was having troubles with her liver also and couldn't work,” Aicher said. “Basically, right after my dad passed, this all happened with her. It turned out that she didn’t have cancer but, in the beginning, the doctors were saying that it was a possibility.”
This crisis meant more of burden than what is common, or fair, for a high school senior who should be more focused on the prom and graduation.
“I thought of what I am going to do with where to live and how the rest of the family would feel,” said Aicher. “A big thing that was always on my mind was that I might not have either of my parents see me graduate.”
“One of the main people I was worried about was my mom-mom (Angie Saylor) and my great grandmom (Julie Piston). But then I also have to worry about my aunt and my cousins. I usually care for others before myself, especially with family -- like how they would react as if she passed away with both my parents passing away so close. And like how they would handle it.”
Although the health crisis passed, Aicher still worries about his mother if and when he does join the Marines.
“Yes, I’m worried about my mom because I know she is moving out of the house that we live in now but I don’t know how she is going to pay for bills (since) I already help with them now,” he explained.
And, yes, Aicher would be lying if he didn’t stop and think about the hand he had been dealt.
“I ask many of times why it has to be me to deal with all this at a young age but then I realize it isn’t going to change any of it,” he said.
Taking the Pain
Picking up on his father’s passion for baseball, and for watching his son develop as a player, baseball was never a chore for Aicher.
“Baseball has been a big thing in my life since I was young,” he said. “Playing the game is very important to me because it is something that I have always enjoyed. Once I step on the field, it’s like I forget about everything else that is going on around me and all I have on my mind is the game. I love the sport because it takes time to get good at it and there is always a way of getting better. Baseball is a challenging sport in my opinion, and it is the best feeling when you’re trying something new and you succeed at it.”
Once at the high school level, the path to varsity went through the pitcher’s mound.
“I settled on being a pitcher only my sophomore year when I came up to varsity,” said Aicher. “Pitching to me was the best option I had and I wanted to focus on it.”
But then came a fateful moment that put his career in jeopardy.
“Going into junior year, I tore my UCL and then, going into senior year, I tore my flexor tendon,” said Aicher. “Both times I had to go to physical therapy for two days a week for about two months. I think it impacted me a lot because it set me back during the summer, and in my opinion, I think I could have been stronger and throwing faster if it never happened. Also, there are times where my arm still even hurts while pitching.”
But working through pain is nothing new to Aicher, who leads with his fortitude. It is not a role he takes lightly.
“I see myself as one of the main pitchers that is looked to when needed,” he said. “I’m not a very loud kid but if a kid is down, I will try and pick him up. In one way, I’m quiet but I’m also looked at as a leader for being on varsity the longest on the team.”
Monaghan, who understands Aicher’s motivation for joining the Marines, says “a few schools” have shown “mild” interest in Aicher but that the injuries ultimately cut down on his chances to be seen.
“He lost valuable time,” said Monaghan, adding that the scenario is just one more reason for Aicher to surrender, and yet he refuses.
“He is so impressive,” said the coach. “He has had a lot of obstacles. If anyone had a reason to make excuses – for school, for the team – it is Brian, but he doesn’t let anything affect him. Knowing what a rough childhood he has had, he still could not be a better person. It says a lot about the kind of kid he is, and I really can’t emphasize enough what a great kid Brian is, especially when you consider the amount of adversity he has had to deal with in his personal life.
“He is someone the school, and the whole community, can really be proud of.”