FAIRFIELD, OH (September 5, 2023)—What could possibly inspire two Fairfield residents to lace up their shoes for a one-day, 21-mile trek from Joe Nuxhall’s home city of Fairfield to his home ballpark in Cincinnati? It’s the legacy of The Ole Lefthander himself that serves as the spark plug, they say.
On Monday, September 18, 2023, Eric Judd and Benjamin Otto, longtime supporters of The Nuxhall Foundation, are setting out to walk the 21 miles from Fairfield to Great American Ballpark, raising awareness and funds to support The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields. This year, Judd and Otto will be joined by first-time Miracle Walkers Jared Baker and Tyler Parker.
The Miracle Walk will step off around 6am from the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields, where Judd, Otto, and the walking team will receive an honorary game ball from a Cincinnati Reds representative at the outset of their journey. In total, the walk takes around 10 to 11 hours. Then, the two friends will make their way from Fairfield through Mt. Healthy, North College Hill, Northside, and Over The Rhine to arrive at Great American Ballpark for that evening’s 6:40pm game against the Minnesota Twins. Judd and Otto will be introduced on the field and will place the game ball on the mound to finalize their trek.
“Personally, I feel like this contribution of walking to the ballpark is minor, so I hope that people realize they can do something small that helps the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields in a big way,” says Judd. “The walk is small compared to what the special needs families at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields do on a daily basis. We are donating 12 to 14 hours of our time, and hope to make a big impact. Giving your time like we are? That’s something anyone can do to make this organization and our community better.”
This won’t be the first time the two Fairfield buddies have made this lengthy journey. In 2021, Otto walked from Fairfield to GABP and raised more than $12,000 in donations and sponsorships from friends, family, and supporters.
“When I did this in 2021, it was an opportunity to spread the word about what this place is,” says Otto. “I was amazed that lots of people throughout Cincinnati didn’t quite know what the mission of the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields was or why it existed. So, I want people to know about it, and the next big dream of building The Hope Center. We are incredibly lucky to have this gem of a facility in our community, and we all need to come together to make sure it continues to shine.”
Otto initially got the idea from a similar walk completed by legendary Hamilton educator and community leader Tom Alf, who walked 26 miles from his home to Great American Ball Park in 2019 to celebrate his 70th birthday.
Otto never met Alf, who died just four months after completing the walk; but he was inspired by the courage and determination of a man who maintained a sense of adventure late into his life.
“I remember hearing about Tom’s walk and thinking how cool it was that he was doing it,” says Otto. “Although I never got meet Tom, I wanted to honor his life of service and commitment to our community by adding a fundraising component to the challenge.”
In turn, Judd was inspired by Otto completing the walk in 2021, and decided to carry on the tradition while Otto recovered from an injury that prevented him from repeating the trek.
But both men say that they find their inspiration in the legacy of Joe Nuxhall and his son, Kim. Their selfless giving and all-in commitment to creating a better world, Otto and Judd say, motivates them to dream big and walk with purpose.
“Growing up in Fairfield, you are lucky to have great role models,” says Otto. “For me, it was Joe, Kim, Coaches Ron Masanek and Jason Laflin, Larry [Tischler], Tom Alf who inspired the walk….I grew up watching these community servants. Then, you find yourself raising a family in the community and you want to do something to inspire them just like your own heroes did. This is my way of trying to carry forward their legacy.”
Judd, who planned the McKinley Pub Golf Outing for years and donated more than $100,000 in proceeds from the event to the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields, says that his personal connection to Joe and Kim Nuxhall gives him fuel for the journey.
“I do this because I’ve always appreciated how Kim treated me, so watching how he appreciates everyone else inspires me to try and do something for him,” says Judd. “Any free time I’ve ever had, I’ve wanted to use to do something for Kim and for Joe.”
Step by Step
For Ben Otto (46, and shares a birthday with Joe Nuxhall) and Eric Judd (42), the thought of a 21-mile walk can be daunting; but both men have different approaches in preparing for the journey, physically and mentally.
“I will put in a ton of practice,” says Otto, whose training style has more structure than his teammate. “My goal will be to complete an 11-mile walk as practice.”
Judd, on the other hand, says he tends to “…just roll with it. I’ll do a seven or eight mile walk leading up to the big day, but I try to focus on logging 50 miles while training, even if it means I’m not logging a consistent number each week.”
For both Judd and Otto, they’ll likely wear Mizuno walking shoes as they complete the walk, while chugging bottle after bottle of water.
But when it comes to dietary choices and music, that’s where the two differ. Judd will snack on bananas, carrots, eggs, and granola bars as he makes the walk. Otto looks forward to stopping for lunch and pounding a cheeseburger and hashbrowns as fuel for his journey. When not conversing with one another, Judd will catch up on podcasts while Otto jams to songs by Caamp and Tyler Childers.
The two have favorite parts of the mapped-out walk as well. For Judd, it’s walking through Spring Grove Cemetery; but for Otto, it’s walking through the Riverdale neighborhood in Fairfield that he calls home and appreciating the roots of his upbringing and the community that supports him.
“There are a lot of good reasons to be proud that you’re from Fairfield,” says Otto. “Eric and I hope we’re giving people another reason to be proud.”
Supporting The Miracle Walk
As they have in years past, Judd and Otto will use a GoFundMe page to collect donations and sponsorships for their walk, with 100% of the proceeds benefitting The Nuxhall Foundation.
“What Ben and Eric are doing is just jaw-dropping,” says Kim Nuxhall, President and Board Chairman of The Nuxhall Foundation. “We love the generosity of our team of donors, but we especially appreciate their ingenuity and creativity. This is about as creative as it gets! I look forward to seeing Ben and Eric off from Fairfield as they begin this trek, and congratulating them on a journey well done at GABP later that evening—but I’ll be driving to the stadium in my truck!”
Supporters looking to make a donation can make a contribution through Judd and Otto’s GoFundme page. The Nuxhall Foundation is also helping to locate a presenting sponsor for the Miracle Walk. Interested companies and organizations can contact Nuxhall Foundation Executive Director Tyler Bradshaw at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss potential partnerships. Supporters can learn more about the Miracle Walk by visiting www.nuxhallmiracleleague.org/walk.
Judd and Otto are both excited to add new Miracle Walkers to their team in Baker and Parker, and they hope to see the group grow in the years ahead.
For Judd and Otto, the walk is about more than raising money. It’s about highlighting the beauty and impact of the cause being carried forward at the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields.
“The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields and this cause are bigger than Fairfield,” says Judd. “It’s even bigger than Cincinnati. It’s about giving our world hope and a belief that any challenge can be overcome with character and a commitment to kindness and love for others.”
About The Nuxhall Foundation
The Nuxhall Foundation is the legacy foundation for former Major League Baseball pitcher and longtime Cincinnati Reds broadcaster, Joe Nuxhall. A central project of The Nuxhall Foundation is The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields—an entirely accessible baseball and recreational facility where every player with every challenge gets every chance to play. More than 250 players between ages 4 to 80 participate in programs at the Miracle League Fields.
For more information, visit http://www.nuxhallmiracleleague.org.
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Miracle Walk Information:
The 2023 Miracle Walk
Monday, September 18, 2023
Departure: 6am, The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields
To Donate via GoFundMe: https://gofund.me/c09a77a3