SoonerSports.com Special Feature:
Below is an article brought to SoonerSports.com from Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, a national baseball publication that has been covering the sport since 1958. The feature story was printed last month in the Jan. 6 issue and spotlights the amazing story of how OU sophomore Kody Kaiser and his uncle, OU head coach Sunny Golloway, were brought together at the University of Oklahoma.
Dying of cancer, sister of OU Coach Sunny Golloway asks for special favor ...
The dying wish of a sister can be a powerful force. Six years ago in December of 1999, the sister of University of Oklahoma baseball coach Sunny Golloway’s passed away after suffering for 3 years from breast cancer.
It was an absolutely horrible ordeal for Catherine and Sunny as chemotherapy and radiation was performed as she withered away to a shell of her normal weight and suffered day after day trying to beat this deadly disease which affected more than 200,000 women in the United States alone in 2005.
“Several months prior to her death, everyone realized there was not much hope,” said Sunny.
“Cancer had spread into my sister’s lungs, bones and ultimately into her brain. As cancer continued to spread, she was in tremendous pain and doctors ordered special morphine patches which could only be applied to her back with double gloves because the medication was so strong.
“I still vividly remember my birthday on Nov. 19 as I drove to her home. I put on the double gloves to place the morphine patches on her back. From that day, I prayed for God to take my sister if that was His will. She was in such pain. It hurt so much watching the most special person in my life being ravaged by this horrible disease.
“I loved her so much. She passed on a month later and is now in a much better place in heaven.”
Her love of Oklahoma baseball and her brother never wavered. For nearly every baseball game he coached when he was an assistant coach with the Sooners, she was there in the stands. She knew every player and was almost like the team mother.
She was also supportive of his career when he accepted the head coaching position at Oral Roberts University.
She was fortunate to raise a wonderful son named Kody who is an extremely gifted baseball player.
As he went through Little League, youth baseball and the start of high school baseball, she always hoped that one day he could play for Uncle Sunny.
That is why the day she passed on in December of 1999 is so important to this trio of people.
Catherine’s dying wish to Sunny was to have her son play for him.
At the time, Kody was hardly a huge prospect that every college wanted. But in time, he would turn into a tremendous ball player who was coveted by many.
Sunny was the head coach at Oral Roberts University at the time of her death and served as skipper at that program from 1996-2003. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at OU from 1992-1995.
Prior to the 2004 season, he came back to Oklahoma as an assistant.
This is where divine intervention stepped in.
Kody was now a force on the high school baseball scene at Santa Fe H.S. in Edmond, Okla. He registered a team-best and school single-season record .435 batting average his senior year. He led the team with 48 RBI from the leadoff spot and cracked 19 home runs, including four in the state tournament.
If that wasn’t enough, he swiped 31 bases. He made the All-State team and was drafted in the 24th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He was pursued hard by Oklahoma and other schools. But it was a natural fit with Uncle Sunny at Oklahoma with the opportunity to fulfill the dying wish of his mother.
In his freshman season with the Sooners a year ago, the talented centerfielder hit .305 with 10 homers, 15 2B, 34 RBI and was 13/14 in stolen bases.
Late in the 2005 season, OU Head Coach Larry Cochell resigned which left the job security of Golloway in doubt. Even though he interviewed to be the new coach of the Sooners, there was a strong possibility a higher profile coach might get the job which could mean sweeping changes with the current coaching staff.
His worst fears came true when Wichita St. head Coach Gene Stephenson was named the new head coach of Oklahoma after the season. But in another bizarre twist of fate, Stephenson resigned shortly after that because of irreconcilable problems with scholarships at the school.
Divine intervention seemed to step in again on July 15 as Golloway was named OU’s new head coach.
Now he could be with Kody for another year.
“It’s strange how all this has worked out with Kody and I being at Oklahoma at the same time,” said Golloway.
“My sister is smiling in heaven right now, I can assure you.”
Kody was asked to explain the relationship between him and Golloway.
“I started playing baseball when I was very young,” said Kaiser.
“My first real interest in baseball came when I started watching my dad and uncle play on a softball team together. I also watched my uncle coach games at Oklahoma when he was an assistant there. As the years went by, I really began having a passion for baseball, and my parents built me a baseball field in the back yard based on Field of Dreams but without the corn. We have a lot of land, and it is 250 feet down the lines at this field.
“When I was 8-12 years old, I participated in Sooner Baseball Camps and really enjoyed it. In 1994, I was a bat boy at the College World Series for Oklahoma. That was the year OU won the national title. I became a huge fan of Oklahoma during this period of time, and it seemed natural to play for OU some day, hopefully for my uncle.”
As he was going through his high school career, he faced a huge dilemma. Should he play for his uncle at Oral Roberts or accept a scholarship to Oklahoma?
“It was really strange that at about the time I was deciding which college to attend, my uncle is hired at Oklahoma to be an assistant. The timing was perfect. I’m not sure what I would have done if he remained at Oral Roberts. It would have been a tough decision. But it made my decision easy. I had always loved Oklahoma and my uncle. So now we were both together.”
Baseball And Family Life
Kody was asked how he separates baseball and family now when his uncle visits.
“We both do a good job of enjoying each other when we are with the family. But also, it is known that when we are on the baseball field, it is all business. He can ride me as hard as any of the other players to get the best out of my potential. And I totally understand when he does that.
“I had always wondered if it would be difficult playing for my uncle. But it has become more natural than I would have predicted. He probably expects more out of me because of our relationship. But he is completely fair when it comes to playing time. I had to earn my stripes like everyone else.”
Kody said his mother always wanted two things for him in life.
“She always wanted to see me play baseball at Oklahoma and also play for my Uncle Sunny. It is wonderful both of her wishes have come true. Even when my mom was sick, she made my uncle promise to take care of me and always keep an eye on me. For this to happen, it seems that divine intervention took place. It was my mom’s dying wish, and it came true.”
Since Kody is a draft eligible sophomore this season, he may be drafted high enough next June that this will be his final year with the Sooners.
“Part of me wants to go and play as a professional after this season to see what opportunities are beyond Oklahoma. But it also has been a lot of fun being at such a great university as OU and playing for my uncle. There certainly will be a lot of thought and consideration when the time for a decision must be made.
“It is great doing what my mom always wanted me to do. My only regret is that she could not be here watching my games. But I know in my heart that she is looking on from heaven.”
back row: (l to r) Kris and Catherine Kaiser, Sunny and Charlotte Golloway. lower row: Kody and Kaci Kaiser along with Taylor and Sunni Kate Golloway
Golloway’s Amazing Sister
“She was always very protective of me, her little brother. She supported me in every game I coached and everything I did. Cat, who was 1 years older than me, was an honest voice of reason as she made me a better person.
“In all the tough moments of my life, she was there. When we both went to college, I faced a number of tough, personal issues. But she was always there for me.”
Golloway said his immediate family (wife Charlotte, and three children Sunni Kate, Taylor and Callen) routinely met with his sister’s family which included husband Kris, Kody and daughter Kaci for different functions, birthday parties and skiing vacations.
“It seemed like we were always together for every birthday party and had great outings when we went skiing in Colorado and other locations.”
But a call late one evening in 1996 at Oral Roberts changed everything.
“My brother-in-law calls me to tell me Cat was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was still in the office stadium at ORU and was stunned. After some deep thought, I honestly felt Cat could beat this. And she fought it with a vengeance with radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Doctors were 99 percent sure they could save her. And in time, she got better as the cancer had vanished.
“However, during the summer of 1999, she brought Kody and Kaci to camp, and she seemed to be bothered by something. There were a couple of nodules on her neck which made her uncomfortable, but she didn’t want to worry me. I asked her to see the doctor immediately, and she did.
“After camp was over, she called me to inform me of the bad news. Cancer had returned, and she was asked to go through radiation and chemotherapy once again. At that point, she was taken to M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston which specializes in cancer. I was determined to do anything I could to save my sister. But after several months of trying to combat this horrible disease, it was apparent that the fight was over. It spread into her lungs, bones and into her brain. It would be a matter of months before she would die, and it was tearing me up.”
End Of Life Nears
Golloway said his mother, Sueime was born and raised in Hawaii as he and his sister and older brother Carl lived there for a portion of their childhood.
“During the last few days of Cat’s life, she was hallucinating that she was in Hawaii with me having a great time. So even though we were in Edmond, Okla., we spent the day in Hawaii.
“Another time, she was hallucinating that Sunny’s daughter was playing in the drier and asked me to please get her out. So I told her I would take care of the problem. This is what she had to go through as she took powerful medication to combat cancer. I was happy to be with her during those last few days even though it was in an imaginary world.”
Golloway said Cat passed away on a beautiful sunny day in December while he was at her home.
“She was on a heavy dose of morphine and going in and out of consciousness. It was tough to watch a beautiful person like this suffer so much. She meant so much to many people. The local elementary school where Cat’s kids went to school let everyone out on this day so they could be with Cat.
“It still chokes me up when I think of it. Out in the front lawn and driveway kids stood as my sister passed on. The kids were saying good bye and their mothers and fathers saying the same. There were over 100 kids and parents singing outside at the time in her honor.”
Feature story by Lou Pavlovich Jr. (Collegiate Baseball Newspaper)