Field Of Dreams: One Man’s Quest To Help His Best Friend

Seth Richardson Contributor
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Jimmy Suits loves the Cubs. There’s something magical about the Lovable Losers. They haven’t won a World Series in more than 100 years, but that just adds to their character.

In a more perfect world, Suits would be pitching for the Cubs instead of relegated to watching them on television. He was a phenomenal pitcher for El Dorado High School in southern Illinois. Being a lefty with a 92 mph fastball made him a hot commodity. Hard-throwing lefties are hard to come by.

“Jimmy was always a gifted athlete,” Suits’ high school coach Billy Tippett said. “He always stood out athletically, whether it was basketball or baseball or whatever. He was a left handed pitcher and coming in as a freshman you could just tell he was going to be a good player.”

He had offers from the top schools in the country. But more importantly, MLB teams were pursuing Suits. The Chicago White Sox were courting him and the Baltimore Orioles were fairly aggressive. They weren’t his beloved Cubs, but the pros are the pros.

That is until Sep. 4, 2010 when his life changed forever.

“I was at my aunt’s house and I was just laying there watching TV and my arms started tingling,” Suits said. “I started shaking them and they stopped shaking. Then my neck started hurting real bad. We hurried to the hospital and that’s when I kept saying I’m paralyzed because I couldn’t move or nothing.”

Suits was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, an ailment affecting the spinal cord. His life changed overnight.

He was given a feeding tube and went into surgery to have his intestines scrubbed. The once promising young athlete who was always on the move was now paralyzed from the neck down. His dreams of pitching for the Cubs were dashed.

Even worse, Suits has never been to Wrigley Field. Southern Illinois is decidedly Cardinals territory and it just never worked out. Sure, he’s been to Busch Stadium, but to Suits it doesn’t even compare to a glimpse of the Ivy in Chicago.

That’s where Suits’ best friend Jacob Buckman decided he needed to step in.

Buckman and Suits have been friends since the fourth grade.

“Ever since day one Jimmy was the coolest kid in school,” Buckman said. “Everyone wanted to be his friend. He was the most popular kid in school. Probably one of the most popular kids in Illinois.”

The two were inseparable in high school. Outside of Suits’ mother, Buckman was his biggest fan.

“They were always together,” Tippett said. “It didn’t matter what they were doing. Mowing the baseball field, doing field work, it would always be Jacob and Jimmy.”

So when Suits’ career came to a screeching halt, Buckman was devastated. Suits was his best friend and his hero. So he took action.

Buckman is currently on a bike ride from El Dorado to the Gulf of Mexico to raise money to take Suits on a trip to Chicago to see his beloved Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals. He decided to make the journey after Suits told him in May he’d never been.

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He set his goal at $6,500 to provide Suits with all the comfort in the world of a high-class hotel and private box seats.

“When I take him, I want him to be comfortable because he’s in a big wheelchair. I don’t want to set him at the end of an aisle,” Buckman said. “I want him to be comfortable in a box where it can be him and his family and a couple other friends because that is what it would make it most comfortable for him.”

After nine days, Buckman reached his goal. He’s halfway done with his ride, and now he’s trying to raise more money for Suits.

“Any money leftover, all the money goes to the Jimmy Suits fund. If he wants to buy a new TV or start a new fundraiser, it’s his,” Buckman said.

And Suits couldn’t be happier. He’s had a rough time since that fateful day in 2010. Now he gets to see the team he’s idolized since the McGwire/Sosa showdown of the 1990s. Buckman couldn’t be more excited to take him.

“I’ve been to Wrigley Field and I thought it was only fair that he get to go there,” he said. “I like to think if he’d never gotten sick, he’d have been to Wrigley Field by now.”

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