Gehrig Schilling had just surrendered six runs to Braintree’s American Legion Post 86. The 6-5 loss last Sunday knocked his team out of the playoffs, and his career in a Medfield Legion Post 110 uniform was over.
But after the game, the lanky pitcher’s body language didn’t show an ounce of dismay; he was all smiles, shaking hands, and hugging his teammates.
“Obviously, the frustration is there at first when you have a bad outing and you’re not on your game, especially in the playoffs,” said the 19-year-old righty, who graduated from Medfield High School in 2013, and spent the last year at Bridgton Academy in Maine.
“But just sitting back in the dugout, it kind of sunk in that this was my last game as a Medfield baseball player, so I just tried to enjoy it.”
Then when he returned home, he could seek out advice from someone who knows a thing or two about both pitching and adversity: his father, former Boston Red Sox ace Curt Schilling.
“He told me, ‘You don’t always have your best stuff,’ ” Gehrig recalled. “He said initially it’s really hard to get back into the game, but you gotta roll with the punches and then deal with what’s going on, what the reality of the game is, and just pick each other up as teammates.”
Those words of wisdom apply not only to Gehrig’s final Legion game; they could be the template for the life story of a young man whose family has endured obstacle after obstacle.
‘It’s been really neat to see him be honest with people about what had happened and . . . to be a mentor.’
Already, Gehrig has conquered an eating disorder, and has seen both of his parents battle through cancer. His father’s videogame company collapsed.
His younger brother, Grant, has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, and 17-year-old sister Gabby wears hearing aids after losing some of her hearing during 10th grade.
The Schillings say they have been able to push through each obstacle because as a family — as a group of teammates — they’re always there to pick each other up.
When he was in middle school, Gehrig was diagnosed with anorexia. His mother had noticed a change in his eating pattern and took him to a doctor.
“They said, ‘Come back in a year, and if he’s gained a pound or an inch, then we know he’s going in the right direction,’ ” Shonda Schilling said. “We took him back, and he had gained a half a pound and a half an inch.”
Gehrig underwent counseling, and eventually realized the severity of the situation when doctors informed him that his eating disorder was not only stunting his growth, but threatening his life.
“I was actually pretty close to being put on a feeding tube for a while,” said Gehrig, who recalled weighing just 78 pounds in the eighth grade.
“I had to ease back in and eat a lot of protein in order to get my weight back up,” said Gehrig, who now weighs a healthy 175.
His mother said that not only did he overcome the disorder, but found a way to benefit from it.
“To this day, he’s one of my best eaters because he doesn’t eat when he’s not hungry. He doesn’t eat bad food. He learned a lot about foods and what they do to you in that process,” she said.
“It’s been really neat to see him be honest with people about what had happened, and talk to other people and be able to be a mentor.”
That willingness to be open and help others displays a maturity beyond Gehrig’s years. It’s a maturity that he credits to his father, who raised him among men in a big-league clubhouse.
When Gehrig was a child, he would insist on staying with his father, who took him to the ballpark regularly. There was a mutual need being met, as Gehrig helped fill a void that had been present since the death of Curt’s father, Cliff, in 1988.
“When his dad died, a piece of his world died with him,” said Shonda Schilling. “Curt was the last living Schilling before Gehrig was born . . . He so wanted that connection back to his dad, so Curt definitely worships Gehrig.”
Curt Schilling agreed. “There’s a special connection there,” he said. “Gehrig being a boy and my first-born, it’s a different kind of a relationship.”
Because of their closeness, the father’s cancer diagnosis last winter marked the biggest obstacle Gehrig has faced.
“At first, I just felt disbelief . . . like this isn’t really happening,” said Gehrig, who remembers his mother battling stage 2 malignant melanoma — and helping raise public awareness about the importance of using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer — a decade ago.
With the support of his family, the former major league pitcher battled through the grueling treatments. He even made it to Fenway Park on May 28, when Boston’s 2004 World Series championship team was honored; Gehrig walked out on the field beside Curt, representing the rock he has been for his father.
“For one, I didn’t want to fall over, because I was still sick. I was lightheaded, so I needed somebody to catch me if I fell,” said Schilling, who was met by thunderous applause as he strolled from the Green Monster to the infield. “But Gehrig was in that clubhouse . . . he was a part of that year with me.”
Now, their baseball roles have reversed, with Gehrig on the hill and his father watching as his biggest fan.
Because of his illness, Schilling missed most of his son’s games this spring, But late last month, he announced on Twitter that his cancer was in remission, and he has since made it to several of Gehrig’s games, setting up a chair behind home plate so he could study his son’s every move.
“Most games, he’ll come over in-between innings and give me little pointers and tips,” said Gehrig, who also volunteers at Red Sox home games, selling 50/50 raffle tickets to benefit the Red Sox Foundation charities. “He’s always been a coach to me . . . it’s great having him there.”
And Medfield’s Legion team has reaped the benefits of having him for one last summer, playing on the middle school field named after his father.
“Gehrig’s a hard worker and a quintessential teammate,” said Post 110 manager Rob Mintz. “He knows his role as a pitcher, but he’s there every game when he’s not pitching, and he’s there doing the little things to help players out.”
Characteristics he learned from his father.
“He grew up in the clubhouse, so it’s fun to watch him as he gets older and plays baseball; he has all the mannerisms of a kid who grew up in the clubhouse,” said his father.
Gehrig will take those mannerisms to Endicott College in Beverly, where he will suit up for the Gulls. One of his father’s biggest goals over the next year is to gain enough strength to attend every game in which his son pitches.
Gehrig will appreciate his presence more than ever.
“Through this, I’ve just learned that life is precious and to enjoy its moments while you have them,” he said. “As corny as that sounds, it’s so true.”