It’s funny how life can take one on a path to form an unexpected friendship with people. That was what happened with me a little less than four years ago. It all occurred because of one of the many conversations that I have had over the years with Jerry Kramer.
That chat with Jerry led me to write a four-part series about stem cell therapy. It was then when I was able to get to know Kandace Saberhagen. I knew immediately that Kandace was a special person. That impression was cemented by other people who knew Kandace well. People like Don Horn, who played with Kramer in Green Bay when both were with the Packers. It was Kramer’s discussion about stem cell therapy at a reunion/autograph session several years ago which first got Horn interested in the subject. It also led to Don’s association with Kandace in the stem cell therapy field.
My association with Kandace led to another friendship, when she married Bret Saberhagen in February of 2019. I knew all about Bret and his career in Major League Baseball. A career that spanned 18 years in the big leagues in which Saberhagen twice won the American League Cy Young Award and also saw him being named the 1985 World Series MVP for the Kansas City Royals. In fact, I definitely feel that Bret deserves consideration for enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I wrote about that situation a little over a month ago.
I had never talked to Bret in the four years I covered the Milwaukee Brewers, as his rookie year came in 1984, a year after my last season covering the Brew Crew.
But I got to know Bret after he married Kandace, and while it was great to talk to Bret about his career in the big leagues, it was also very obvious that he and Kandace had an exceptional relationship. They were definitely a special blend as a couple.
Bret and Kandace first met in Chicago in May of 2018 when they were introduced to each other by Bill Bellah. This meeting occurred while Kandace was in the Windy City along with stem cell therapy advocate Mike Golic for a charity event.
Bellah explained to me how the meeting finally took place.
“It’s funny, I met Kandace through Kurt Walker, who had played in the NHL,” Bellah said. “He had been working with Kandace to help out older players in hockey with stem cell therapy. Unfortunately, Kurt passed away a couple of years ago. Anyway, when the hockey players were getting their stem cell procedures done at Kandace’s clinic, I let them use my house in Breckenridge (Colorado) to recuperate.
“Kandace, Don Horn and several others came to this birthday party that I had in Breckenridge. There were like 80 people there. Bret was there too. But at that time, Kandace was with Don, who was watching over her like a father. Bret was on the complete opposite side of the venue that I had put together, sitting by a fire pit. So they didn’t meet there.
“About eight months later, I had a charity event in St. Charles, Illinois. That is when Bret and Kandace finally met. Afterward, they both flew on my jet and they sat in the back of the plane. They really hit it off. It was great, because they are both great people. If I truly was cupid, they were a couple I would want to put together.”
The relationship between Bret and Kandace had begun. They soon realized that they had a lot in common, as Kandace explained to me.
“One of the first things I noticed about Bret was that he had a big heart,” Kandace said. “He’s just a great person, who is always looking out for me. We also have a lot of similar interests.”
“Obviously sports is one one reason we connected,” Bret said. “But it’s really everything. If Kandace wants to do one particular thing, I usually want to as well. The same holds true if I want to do something, she does as well. We just have similar likes. We both love cooking for instance. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make us happy.”
The relationship between the two was in full swing in October of 2018 when Bret asked Kandace if she was ever interested in getting married again.
“When Bret asked me that, I said no, are you crazy,” Kandace said. “So I sat there for a minute and Bret was real quiet. Then I asked him if he was asking me to get married. And he said, ‘I might be.’ That was before I knew I was sick.
“A couple of days later, I felt a lump on my right side. At the time, we had a lot going on, as we were buying a house. So I went in and had a mammogram and the doctor told me it didn’t look good, but that he was going to send it off to get the test results. That was on a Friday. On Monday, they gave me the report. I really lost it when I heard the bad news. It was not the optimal time, as I was just ready to start the next chapter of my life. But God had other plans.
“I flew out of Colorado that day to go to Arizona. Bret’s daughter came out to stay with me. I was devastated the whole week and really couldn’t talk through a lot of things. I was meeting Bret that Friday. My mentality at that point was that I was going to have to let him go because I wasn’t going to take him into this situation with me. This was going to be huge ordeal. We were in the infantile stages of a serious relationship. I wasn’t going to have him take that on.
“Long story short, I met Bret in Chicago at the airport. I told him that I was sick and that I would love to spend the next chapter of my life with him, but that I’m going to have to do the next chapter alone and he wouldn’t be in it. Bret got what I said, but he cried. We both sat at the bar at Lou Malnati’s in downtown Chicago in front of crowded group and just sobbed unbearably. It was a very touching moment.
“The next day, Bret asked me if I would have coffee with him. I said sure. We passed like four different coffee shops before Bret pulled into the diamond district, also known as Jeweler’s Row and put a ring on my finger right there. He told me that we would start our time in sickness, but that we will also have happiness and asked me to marry him.”
“That was when my medical support from Bret started. He immediately moved from California to Colorado. Bret was with me on every IV and chemo treatment. He went with me on every doctor’s appointment. He was involved in everything I did. He made sure I had iron in my diet. Every time I threw up, he was there. He made a make-shift bucket on a stepladder by the bed so I didn’t have to leave the room and go into the bathroom. He would talk to my doctors one on one to see what would be best for me. He’s carried me up the stairs when I couldn’t walk. He also made me stop working and go on medical leave. He was with me every step of the way. That continues to this day.”
Bret and Kandace got married on February 16, 2019 in Paso Robles, California, which is also where the couple currently lives. Don Horn made the toast at the reception.
“It was fantastic,” Kandace said. “There was a huge winery. There were 100 of our closest friends who celebrated with us.”
One thing that seems to be a common denominator when I talk to Bret and Kandace is their absolute love of cooking.
“We love to cook any type of meal. Italian, Mexican, American cuisine, you name it,” Bret said. “It’s a wide variety. I’m not a big seafood fan, so there is not a lot a seafood being cooked. I will do shrimp though. I’m more of a meat and potatoes guy.
“Because I played so long in Kansas City, I just love to barbeque. But as I said, I love to cook just about anything.”
Kandace talked about the pleasure of cooking with Bret.
“Cooking has become a major part of our lifestyle,” Kandace said. “I’m trying to be as humble as possible, and I’m not so much talking about the outcome of the food, but it’s really how we cook. It’s almost like a dance in the kitchen. We love to entertain. One of Bret’s specialties is the way he cooks his steaks. They are just phenomenal. The potatoes are great as well because of some of the ingredients we use. We spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It’s huge kitchen and it takes up most of our house. We also have an area outside where we can cook and grill.”
Bret and Kandace have a three-year plan. They obviously want to enjoy their life together. They would also eventually like to do a cooking show together. Plus they want to make sure people have the awareness about medical issues that Kandace and so many women go through each day in their lives. In lieu of that, Bret recently put out a statement on the Facebook page that the couple has, called The Saberhagens.
NEW ADDRESS and new name for our nonprofit! Each month I receive hundreds of cards, baseballs, and pictures to sign for people. All I ask is for a small donation to our nonprofit. My wife and I gave my old nonprofit that has not been doing anything for years a new facelift and made it something near and dear to us. SabesWings will relaunch next month in honor of my wife’s battle with breast cancer. It will assist those who suffer from medical financial toxicity. More information to come! In the meantime, our new nonprofit address is: 179 Niblick Road #411, Paso Robles, CA 93446! We receive so many requests for autographs and the best way to do it is send what you want signed to the above address with a return stamped envelope and a small donation to SabesWings! Pretty simple and your donation goes to those who struggle to pay for cancer treatments! It’s a cool way to give back. Suggested minimum donations $10 per 1 baseball card, $25 per signed ball, $50 per jersey, $25 for miscellaneous items. PLEASE include return shipping!!
Family is huge component in the relationship of Bret and Kandace. Together they have six children who range in age from 11 to 34. The oldest is Drew Saberhagen, who is 34 and is married to Kelsey. They have a baby named Sawyer and they are expecting another baby. Next up is Bret’s daughter Brittany, who is 33. She is married to Jacob Zachar. Third on the list is Dalton Saberhagen, who is 28 and still single.
Plus there are the three children who are 16 or under. They are Kandace’s son Aidan Stoltz and Hannah Saberhagen, who are both 16 and are just five days apart with their birthdays. The baby of the family is Layton Stolz, who is 11.
Bottom line, It’s been a difficult time for Bret and Kandace, as they try to stay as positive as they can while Kandace, through Bret’s great assistance, battles breast cancer. Kandace is using alternative therapies to help her fight the good fight. That is why SabesWings will be launched next month.
I often hear from my friends and associates about how jealous they are of me because of all of the sports celebrities I have been able to interview and do stories on. I am indeed very blessed to have had that opportunity.
I have had the opportunity to interview Hall of Famers like Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Carl Yastrzemski, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson, Robin Yount, Rollie Fingers, Don Sutton, Paul Molitor and Ted Simmons.
It would be awesome if Bret can join that group someday soon. I know he deserves at least a chance to have his candidacy talked about in terms of someday having a plaque in Cooperstown.
In terms of the human life Hall of Fame, both Bret and Kandace are definitely members from my perspective. I hope and pray that their life together is long and rewarding. No couple deserves it more.