FAIRFIELD, OH (September 29, 2021)—At 7am on Friday September 24, Ben Otto set out for a morning walk; but it wasn't just any morning walk. It was an inspired one. A 21.5 mile walk from his home in Fairfield near The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields to Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds.
With pitch-perfect weather and strong walking shoes, Ben made that walk ahead of his expected time. But he did more than shatter his time goal; he also shattered the dream he had to raise money with his walk to support The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields.
With the goal of raising about $1,000 to support the organization, Ben launched a GoFundMe page and asked his friends and family members to make donations to support his walk.
Like the man they wanted to honor, Ben's team came out with an unbelievable performance and donated nearly $12,000 for his cause.
If you're doing the math, that's about $558 per mile walked by Otto, a 1995 graduate of Fairfield High School, graduate of Miami University, and finance analyst at GE Aviation. When he arrived at the main entrance of GABP, he posed with his wife, Laura, for a picture with a statue of The Ole Lefthander over his shoulder.
"We love all of our donors," said Kim Nuxhall, volunteer president and CEO of The Nuxhall Foundation, "but we especially love those inspired donations that come our way. This donation holds special meaning for us because of the ingenuity, creativity, and compassion that helped to blow away all of our expectations."
Otto's trek was inspired by longtime Hamilton educator Tom Alf, who walked 26 miles from his Hamilton home to Great American Ballpark on his 70th birthday. Alf passed in 2019 from heart complications, but Otto had witnessed Alf's journey which "captured his imagination."
Otto's walk kept him mostly along Ohio Route 127, but thanks to the gratitude of a few local businesses who saw his story, a few pit stops for breakfast and lunch were included. Upon his arrival in downtown Cincinnati, he met his wife Laura, changed clothes, and started walking again towards the ballpark where he arrived in time to see the first pitch.
For Otto, a former member of the Reds grounds crew during his college years from 1996-2000, the journey was like going home. Otto had witnessed many historic moments as a member of the grounds crew. His first day on the job was Opening Day 1996, a horrific day that witnessed the death of home plate umpire John McSherry who died of a heart attack shortly after the game began. He saw Barry Larkin become the first shortstop to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in that 1996 season.
And he got to know Joe Nuxhall in that time as well. He remembers Nuxhall as the ultimate people person and someone who cared tremendously for the well-being of others.
After his historic walk, many view Otto through that same lens. Particularly his two daughters: Anna, 8, and Mary, 6. They watched their Dad accomplish something that was truly astounding.
With his family by his side, Otto was honored at The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields and thanked for his unbelievable contribution. After a great round of applause by the players, parents, and volunteers in attendance for the Saturday morning game, vice chairman Larry Tischler and Nuxhall Foundation executive director Tyler Bradshaw presented Otto with a framed thank you poster, a Joe Nuxhall bobblehead, and an autographed copy of John Kiesewetter's new book about The Ole Lefthander.
"What Ben did with this walk and the money he raised will bring a smile to our face for a long, long time," said Bradshaw. "I have no doubt that many years from now, just like Ben was inspired by Tom Alf, there will be children in our community, particularly Ben's daughters, who are inspired to do good for others because of this miracle walk. We all need examples of generosity and selflessness in our lives. Joe Nuxhall was that man for many people, and Ben Otto will be that person for many others as well."
Otto's donation will support the ongoing efforts at The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields to ensure that every individual with every challenge gets every chance to play the game of baseball.