KANSAS CITY — Aaron Loup still has the white plastic bracelet around his right arm. The hospital won’t let him take it off.
"They told me if I take it off they’ve got to redo all the numbers and everything and it’ll be a huge pain," Loup says. "So, I’ll just tape around it for now. Maybe it’ll be like a good luck thing. Hopefully, at least."
Aaron Loup could use some good luck. A week ago he got on the Blue Jays charter to Texas with his pregnant wife Leighann, ahead of Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS. But hours before Game 3 Leighann’s water broke. She was just 26 weeks into her term.
With assistance from some Texas Rangers doctors, Leighann and Aaron were rushed to a Dallas hospital and immediately admitted. They stayed there for the next four days while Leighann was monitored and the Blue Jays stormed back in the series, winning three straight to eliminate the Rangers.
Loup slept in a chair by Leighann’s side every night and watched the games on a hospital television, standing right in front of it and pacing the room because it made him so anxious.
"I’ll tell you what, it’s worse watching on TV than it is actually playing. It’s way more stressful," Loup says. "I’m watching the game and I can’t even sit down because my heart’s racing a mile a minute. It’s worse than actually pitching in a game. I’m way more relaxed on the mound."
As Leighann’s condition stabilized Loup left the hospital to meet up with the Blue Jays in Kansas City for the beginning of the ALCS. He kept close tabs with her via text message and pitched in both Game 1 and Game 2 of the series.
"It was a crazy week. It was a roller coaster ride to say the least," Loup says. "You’re worrying about your family, worrying about what’s going on with the team—it was up and down, back and forth, and everything in between."
From Kansas City, Loup flew to Toronto with the team for the middle segment of the series. But as he was getting changed in the Blue Jays clubhouse shortly before the start of Game 4, he got a text from Leighann saying something was going on.
"They didn’t know anything for sure, but she was just kind of giving me the heads up," Loup says. "And then about mid-way through the first inning she called me and said, ‘Hey, it’s happening. You need to get here.’"
Loup ran into the Blue Jays clubhouse and found director of team travel Mike Shaw, who booked him onto a three-hour direct flight to Texas taking off that night. Loup raced to the airport, his heart beating out of his chest, and got on the plane. About an hour into the trip, Leighann gave birth to a two-pound, two-ounce baby boy.
"The doctor told us that when it was going to happen, it was going to happen fast," Loup said. "It was so quick. When I landed I went straight to the hospital, made sure she was doing alright, checked him out. She was doing fine. And, given the circumstances, he was doing as good as he could."
They named him Wyatt Aaron Loup. He was immediately placed into a neonatal intensive-care unit—an incubator meant to simulate the conditions of the womb. He’ll likely stay there until some time around the New Year which means the Loups, who live in Louisiana, will have to remain in Dallas after the end of the Blue Jays season.
The hope is that Loup can remain with the Blue Jays until whenever that is. Manager John Gibbons could certainly use him, as his team has faced several games this post-season without a left-handed reliever in the bullpen.
Leighann is now out of the hospital and remaining in Dallas so she can visit Wyatt and keep tabs on his condition. The doctors have told her that Wyatt’s lungs, heart and brain all checked out well, but he’ll have to be closely monitored until he’s developed enough to move out of the incubator.
The Loups have a few friends who had gone through similar experiences with premature labour, but they’d never considered it to be something that could happen to them.
"It’s been crazy. It’s been physically and mentally draining. But with that being said, I’ve had nothing but support form Gibby, Alex, the front office and the whole team," Loup says. "They said, ‘Hey, take care of your family first and baseball comes second.’ That helped out—to know that when the time comes, I could take care of my family and not have to worry about what was going on at the field. But at the same time, you’ve got to get back and play and help the team anyway you can."
If Loup gets into any of the Blue Jays games from now until the end of their post-season, he’ll pitch with that white plastic hospital bracelet around his right wrist. He’ll pitch with Wyatt and Leighann at the front of his mind. And he’ll pitch with an appreciation for life like he’s never had before.
"Real life, man—it’ll hit you right in the face in a hurry," Loup says. "But thankfully everyone’s doing fine, everyone’s in good spirits and everything’s looking good."