LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – He was known as U of L baseball’s biggest fan. Todd Esser, 45, would always be seen sitting above the Louisville dugout during the games and was always next to the batting cage during practice.
For years, Esser was the first person to the ball park on game day and would not leave until every player was gone.
“He made his own decisions, he didn't want mom and dad... and he did it his way. He did it his way,” his dad, Fritz, said.
Todd Esser was a guy that made the most out of his young life.
“Everything he did was awesome. It was always amazing because it was always a challenge,” his nephew, Ethan, said.
“Everyone around Todd knew he was in a wheelchair, but Todd didn't,” David Hovekamp, a family friend, explained.
Todd had cerebral palsy. He had limited mobility from the neck down, but that never stopped him from living his life. In 2007, he started seeing red.
“He told his brother I'm going to start going to U of L baseball,” his dad explained. “He was right behind home plate and he was fussing at the umpire, and the lady said you're going to get thrown out of here Todd if you don't calm down. He said, ‘they won't throw anybody out in a wheelchair and if they do, ESPN will cover it, and mom will be proud.’”
With that 'can't stop me' attitude, Todd eventually made his way onto the field.
“They might stop practice and have a meeting, and tell the players what to do and he was right in the middle of the meeting,” Fritz said.
It wasn't long before Todd was a part of the team. Coach Dan McDonnell said he was ‘one of us.’
“He ate meals with the team, he sat in on scouting reports. He was as close to our program as you could be.”
In June, the Cardinals beat the University of Kentucky and were headed to the College World Series. The team took a picture.
“He's in that picture going to Omaha,” Coach McDonnell said. “He's on the field, with the scoreboard in the background. You only get in that picture if you're one of us.
Todd's death is still a mystery. It appears it was some sort of accident involving his wheelchair. His parents are still waiting for the autopsy report.
“It comes down to two things. Either a heart attack that caused the wheelchair, or a malfunctioning wheelchair, we don't know,” said his dad.
The U of L super fan was buried in a Cardinal baseball uniform. His teammates carried the casket.
Todd's dad said Todd always dreamed big.
“He told me, 'I really like to dream. Because when I dream, I walk. And what I really like, my favorite dream is when I run.’”
Todd had another dream that clearly did come true, thanks to the hometown baseball team.
Todd wasn't just a baseball fanatic, he was also an artist. He painted several pieces while holding the paint brush in his mouth. He was buried Tuesday.