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First the World Series, then the wedding

Life has taken an interesting twist since the future son-in-law of Paul and Dede Brushaber-- Cleveland's rookie pitcher Ryan Merritt -- became a hero for the Cleveland Indians, who are playing the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. Merritt and his fiancé, Sarah Brushaber, a Rochester Century graduate, have been receiving an outpouring of wedding gifts from fans at the Oronoco home of Sarah's parents.

When the UPS truck arrived for the first time, Dede Brushaber knew something strange was happening.

Dede is now on a first-name basis with the UPS driver -- his name is Grant -- because he returns like clockwork to deliver wedding gifts for her daughter, 2011 Rochester Century grad Sarah Brushaber and fiancé Ryan Merritt.

Merritt is a pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, who meet the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the World Series tonight, and Cleveland fans have been sending dozens of gifts to his in-laws' home in Oronoco to fill out the couple's wedding registry.

Nearly 100 boxes were delivered Tuesday and Sarah's childhood bedroom is now filled with about 150 boxed gifts from title-starved Indians fans. The couple is getting married Jan. 27 in Rochester and the Brushaber residence was designated as the delivery destination for registry gifts — but no one predicted the deluge of gifts from strangers, which started after Merritt's American League championship-clinching start on Oct. 19.

"It's shocking. Overwhelming. Surreal. All of those things," said Dede, who teaches part time at Rochester Central Lutheran School. "I was going out the door Tuesday when (Grant) showed up and said, 'Oh, I have 96 (boxes) today.' It's just such a sweet thing that's happened."


Dede and her husband, Paul, were still struggling to grasp the sudden celebrity Wednesday night while nervously watching Game 2 of the World Series. "Is this real?," Sarah texted her parents from the Indians team bus after fans found their online wedding registry.

ESPN, MLB Network and other national media have since picked up the story about the couple and the outpouring of generosity from fans.

At a press conference last week, Merritt said of the gifts, "At first I thought it was all a joke. It's the last thing I thought was going to come out of all of this. It's pretty emotional. Awesome.

"You just get the support that I'm getting from the Cleveland fans, and that they not only care about my career but they care about my personal life, too," he said.

Unlikely hero

Rochester Century grad Mitch Brown introduced the couple on a trip to Arizona in 2014. Brown was a strong-armed second-round draft pick in 2011, while Merritt was a soft-tossing southpaw who wasn't selected until the 16th round of that draft.

They spent two seasons in the Indians minor league system before Merritt began making his way up the ranks. He posted an 11-8 record in Class AAA this season before being called up to the big leagues late in the year.

October has been a whirlwind.


Sarah finished a counseling job at Heartlight Ministries in Texas just in time to attend Brown's Oct. 16 wedding, then hopped a flight to Toronto to watch her fiancé pitch the game of his life, which put the Indians in the World Series for the first time since 1997.

Back at Sarah's childhood home about five miles north of Rochester, her parents were a bundle of nerves last week during Merritt's breakout performance. "We had a bunch of people over here watching — high fives after every inning he finished," Paul said. "But we can hardly watch a game together. It's so frightening and intense."

Added Dede: "I tend to eat a little bit of popcorn instead of seeds. You get a little amped."

Merritt was forced to skip Brown's wedding last month after being informed he'd be taking the mound in a postseason start against Toronto. Three injured starting pitchers forced Cleveland manager Terry Francona to call upon the most inexperienced postseason starter in MLB history.

Merritt answered the call by allowing just two hits in 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He'd thrown just 11 big league innings before that performance.

Brown was quick to forgive his former bullpen buddy for missing his wedding after watching him steal the spotlight.

"I was a little bummed he couldn't be there, but I was overjoyed he was getting his chance," said Brown, who is hoping to get promoted to Class AA next season. "He was making a postseason start and that's something we all dream about."

Wedding bells


Toronto Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista predicted that Merritt would be "shaking in his boots" during Game 5 of the ALCS. The soft-spoken Texan shrugged off the comment and has since cut a commercial poking fun at Bautista's phrasing.

Paul Brushaber, the longtime pastor at Christ Community Church in Rochester, says there's only one time he's actually seen Merritt nervous. "If Ryan ever shook in his boots, it was at Newt's North when he was asking if he could marry Sarah," he said. "We've always told our kids we have three rules for their spouses — they have to love God, love you and go to work. I let him do his little speech and then we were fine."

It remains to be seen if Merritt will return to the mound this season. He's on the Series roster but not currently slated to start. Win or lose, though, an oversized celebration with Indians fans seems destined to occur.

During a recent interview, Merritt jokingly invited the public to their Jan. 27 wedding in Rochester. The 12-hour drive from Cleveland in the dead of winter figures to deter many, but Sarah has reluctantly embraced the notion of a big wedding.

"I don't really know if people will actually show up," she said Thursday in a phone interview from Chicago. "If people showed up at the church, it's really not that big of a deal — but there's really not a lot of room at the reception," which will be at an undisclosed location.

Paul plans to walk his daughter down the aisle and then officiate the wedding. He said if anyone can handle the sudden spotlight and keep it in perspective, it's Merritt and his daughter.

"The money and the attention, so much and so quick, you never know how long it's going to last," he said. "To have started just a couple of games, it's pretty amazing."


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