Mike Bauer didn’t have any expectations when he signed up for the website 23AndMe, which provides personalized DNA insights.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ in-game host, who is adopted, was wondering if any health problems ran in his biological family.
“As much as I love my family, there are some things you want to know, like, ‘Genetically, am I predisposed to certain health issues?’” said Bauer, whose adoptive parents, Fred and Peg Bauer, live near Cave Creek.
“My mom and dad said, ‘Out of curiosity, why don’t you opt in to this to see, for fun, if we have shared genetic material.’ As an adopted kid, I had no expectations. They had no expectations.”
Bauer found much more.
He found his mom and half-sister.
“There was a woman back in Illinois, where I was born, who was a 50% match and there’s a young lady who has a 25% match,” said Bauer, a professor at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He also works full time for A4 Digital.
“She’s 25% because she’s from a different father. Through that, I found that I had blood relatives.”
After Bauer vetted his mother to make sure he wasn’t being catfished, the trio “met” through video conferencing. Still, Bauer was overwhelmed with a myriad of emotions.
“I was happy, sad, relieved, anxious, nervous and fearful,” he said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I was adopted at birth, and I have a tremendous relationship with my parents. I love them. They gave me a loving and supportive upbringing.”
Bauer quickly learned his birth mother was not, in fact, one of the lucky ones. She was adopted as well and didn’t have the fortunate upbringing that Bauer was afforded.
“One of the first things I told her was she made a great decision that was probably the most difficult decision of her life,” Bauer said. “In the 30-something years we’ve been apart, since she gave me up for adoption, it’s been very different.
“I’m assuming she wondered for 35-plus years, ‘Did I make the right decision?’” Bauer said she did. He has a loving family.
“I acknowledged it must have been hard to give up your first-born for adoption,” he said. “It was an incredible weight off her shoulders. This year, for Christmas, I sent her an email. I said, ‘This is the first time ever I could say Merry Christmas to you. I hope Santa brings you everything you wanted this year’ as a friendly note.
“She said, ‘I already got everything I wanted this year.’ Tears came to my eyes. This is a woman wondering if she made the right decision.”
Because his adoption was closed, Bauer did not know his half-sister and mother were looking for him for more than a decade.
“I didn’t have that void that needed to be filled,” he said. “I didn’t have a burning urge because my heart was full from my family — and it still is.
“I understand they were looking for me for a considerable amount of time. It was quite a relief and an emotional time for them to answer that question they had for so many years. I found it interesting from the inside that we had two very different experiences.”
Bauer’s adoptive parents have been “incredibly supportive,” he said.
“They made me realize just how lucky I am,” he said. “I didn’t need to tell them that they weren’t being replaced, which was a concern of mine. As we’ve all seen on TV — whether it’s nonfiction or fiction — about families reuniting through interesting means.
“It was important to me that my parents knew I wasn’t closing off any part of my life and my amazing family. I was opening a new door that didn’t affect it at all. They mean the world to me. I’m not a parent, but I can see that being a very difficult moment, feeling left out or inadequate. I’m lucky I have parents who are happy for me.”
If there is anything similar with Bauer and his adoptive family, it’s their love of baseball. Fred drives the bullpen cart at Chase Field and serves as a Golden Glover, fielding foul balls. Peg supports her husband and son at the ballpark.
“It’s been weird,” Bauer said. “I missed being at the ballpark and seeing all the great fans at Chase Field last season. I’m looking forward to the day I’m back in the ballpark with the D-backs fans, whenever that day may come."