Tucson, AZ (KOLD) – It was time to grow up and Michael O’Toole knew it.
Leave the nest. Spread the wings. Fly away. Not that this was an easy decision. These kinds of decisions are never easy.
But his sister Danielle had suggested he leave the comfy confines of Upland, California. Leave that football scholarship to Division III University of Redlands on the table. Leave mom. Leave it all behind and come to her at the University of Arizona. Maybe even get a job as a student manager for her softball team.
Michael mulled it over. Even asked some other trusted advisers. They all agreed.
It was time to Bear Down.
“There was no other reasonable option,” said Michael.
So he packed his bags last fall and left the only home he’d ever known to join his sister, the star pitcher for the Arizona Wildcats. As Danielle pointed out, “Getting away, living without your parents is kind of a big deal. It’s kind of what you go to college for. Being outside the house, that was my big push for him.”
It makes sense that Danielle would be the one pushing Michael. While the redshirt senior is only ten months older than her brother, she’s been looking out for him all their lives.
“In high school I wasn’t necessarily picked on a lot but I was left out,” said Michael. “I didn’t really fit anywhere. She always had me under her wing.”
“I always made sure that he was in my friends’ circle,” said Danielle. “I made sure that he was right behind me all the time.”
Danielle and Michael are the oldest of five siblings. Maybe it’s because of their closeness in age but their relationship growing up can be best defined by two words.
“We were best friends,” said Danielle. “Growing up with him was like having a best friend and you didn’t even have to try.”
“We woke up basically at the same time,” said Michael. “Watched cartoons. It’d be seven o’clock in the morning and we’d just be up doing whatever.”
Sister and brother were nearly attached at the hip. The only difference between them seemed to be their preference of sandwich (Danielle like ham and cheese, Michael peanut butter and jelly).
“Things were always the same for us,” said Danielle. “Get picked up at the same time. Get dropped off. It was always the same.”
It was always the same, until it wasn’t.
“Eight or nine is when she started doing her own thing,” said Michael. “I was like, wait, come back. Where you going?”
Then came the high school years. Danielle left first for St. Lucy’s, an all-girls school. Michael attended Damien High School, an all-boys institution. The distance between the two was a mere twenty minute drive. And yet…
“I had super mad separation anxiety,” said Danielle.
Life continued on. Danielle blossomed into an elite pitcher for the Regents who would eventually go on to play for San Diego State before transferring to Arizona.
Michael played football for the Spartans and was a good enough to earn a spot as a punter for Mount San Antonio Community College just nine miles from where he went to high school. Then he came to the cross roads.
One path led to familiarity. The football scholarship to the University of Redlands would relocate him an hour from home. The other road, however, offered something different. A new environment. A new challenge. One that Danielle had already faced. The icing on the cake? Wildcat softball was looking for a student manager.
“I wanted him to get an opportunity to be with us, to be with Coach, with the program.” said Danielle.
“Her first thing was, ‘You like softball. This is a great place to kind of develop yourself’,” said Michael. “On top of that she said, ‘I can help you out too.’”
“He made a good decision,” said Danielle. “He was really mature about it.”
It was a maturity that, Michael said, he developed thanks in part to Danielle.
“She taught me what’s right and wrong,” he said.
“With Mike I tried everything to make sure he was on the straight and narrow,” said Danielle.
“It’s just her experiences that she passes on to me,” said Michael. “She’s like, ‘I think you should be doing this. I know you pretty well.'"
The growth continues for Michael who, as the team’s student manager, has had a front row seat to his sister’s dominance in the circle this season. But for all she accomplishes as a softball player, it’s her continued support and motivation that means the most to her younger brother.
“She’s helped me grow up a lot,” said Michael. “Whether she knows it or not and whether I show it or not. She’s very much what I consider one of the best parts of my life.”
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