On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, many in the sports world are taking a step back to remember the lives of those lost a decade ago. For Tigers pitcher Brad Thomas, it hits closer to home than most.
Thomas and his future wife were booked to fly on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles on that fateful day, but was saved thanks to teammate at the time Michael Cuddyer.
Cuddyer and Thomas were both part of Double-A New Britain that year and in the middle of the playoffs. Cuddyer hit two late home runs in Games 1 and 4 to help send New Britain to the next round -- keeping Thomas and his wife off of Flight 11 on Sept. 11.
"Every time I see Michael, there's a handshake and a hug," Thomas said. "And we always wave each day on my way to the bullpen. I am one of his biggest supporters and always follow him no matter where I am in the world.
Flight 11 was eventually hijacked that morning by Al-Qaeda terrorists and intentionally crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:46 a.m. At 9:03 a.m another plane, United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the South Tower. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. a half hour later and United Flight 93 was brought down in a Pennsylvania field after a passenger revolt shortly after 10 a.m. In total, nearly 3,000 people died at the four sites.
Thomas has spent most of his time on the disabled list with elbow problems this season. In 12 games, he was 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA. Still, Thomas is thankful for what he has:
"Thanks to Michael Cuddyer, and that great New Britain team of 2001, we are still here today," Thomas said. "We were all very close teammates from our many years together in the Twins system. But this day, Sept. 11, reminds me of just how special they are in my life."