This is the first of (hopefully) many guest blogs that Indy Ball Island will be featuring during this down time. I put out a request to any indy baseball player, manager, coach, or broadcaster who wanted to share their story here on the site (think “Players’ Tribune” type articles). If you are interested in being featured, please reach out on social media or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Like many kids out there, my dream was to become a Major League Baseball player. I moved down from New Jersey to Florida after college just so I could play baseball all year round and train for my pro career. For years I played whenever, and wherever, doing whatever I could to make it. I played in the National Extreme Baseball league for a few years winning the batting title every year there; and even went to Japan to play. When I got to Japan however, I started to get very sick after a flight to Osaka. It felt like I couldn’t breath and I felt very tired and developed pneumonia very quickly. I was cut almost as soon as I got there. I guess vomiting on the field was looked down upon, and I was forced to start over in Florida.
It seemed I was always getting sick or hurt constantly. Pneumonia and Bronchitis seemed the norm for many years. Still, I continued to play men’s league baseball, do my crossfit and work. The more time went on the worse I seemed to get. Eventually I went from a top athlete to old ladies finishing faster than me in crossfit. I had to eventually stop playing baseball I was so tired – I couldn’t run to first base without being completely out of breath. In my head I’m thinking wow old age came fast!!! My teeth would constantly be cracking and falling out of my mouth. I couldn’t breath even taking walks. It was crazy.
My men’s league coach called me up one Sunday and said “hey I have nobody to catch tomorrow can you do it?” I hadn’t played in awhile and I wanted to so bad… I had to do it!!! I missed the game so much and what could a few innings hurt? So I went, and in the first inning I was catching a hard throwing right hander on our team. He had played affiliated ball so it was a good challenge for me just getting back. First inning; I’m behind the plate and I started to blackout. Everything in my eyes would turn to black and then I could see normally. On one pitch I lost all sight. It went completely black as the ball was being thrown… I guessed the best I could on the fastball he threw but never even saw it… caught me right around my appendix just outside of my gear.
It dropped me for a second allowing the runner to go to second… I didn’t come out. I stayed in, and the next pitch I threw the runner out at third. Inning over and I was up first the next inning. First pitch was a hit to left …. running down the line to first I collapsed. I guess to a lot of people it looked like I tripped and fell and laughed but when I got up after a minute or two I stood up and walked into the wrong dugout and sat down. I remember the other team was just staring at me like what the hell are you doing in here!!!! Honestly I have no idea why I did that. I was so out of it I couldn’t breath at all and everyone is saying how I probably have asthma or something … So I got up went into the correct dugout.
One of my teammates says “Dude, I had a friend that looked just like you do now, and he was dead the next day… you need to go to the hospital right now!!” Of course I tried to be tough and blamed it on work and being sick and went home and fell sleep. I didn’t have any money to go to the hospital or insurance. The next morning some 20 hours later my mom and dad for whatever reason decided to stop to see me early the next morning at my house. They saw me and said you look sick, let’s take you to the doctors. My Parents can be tough to argue with and so I went. The Doctor took blood samples and said wait a few minutes till we get the results… a few minutes later they came back in and said “hey we need to do that again…”. Huh??? Why??? I said.. “Well, because our machine just broke; so we need another sample to test it on the other machine we have.” So they took even more blood. Came back and said the same thing!!! I said; “what does it say”? The nurse said “it says your dead basically. Your hemoglobin readings were 4.7 and 4.6. It should be around 14. You will have to come back another day when we get our machines fixed.”
I got up walked out of the office and the doctor ran out and said to my family that I needed to go to the hospital immediately!!! I didn’t want to go, but they threatened to call the police and an ambulance if I didn’t go… My parents drove me to the emergency room where I gave the person in front the doctors note and they preceded to make me wait to go in as I guess I looked pretty good to them. Two hours later I collapsed onto the floor of the waiting room. My mom ran to get a nurse and they admitted me right away where they proceeded to give me six blood transfusions to save my life. Several days later with my doctor crying in front of me I was told that I had Stage Four Metastasized Cecum Cancer – Lynch Syndrome a rare genetic cancer where I have an 80 percent chance every year of getting cancer again even if I were to beat this one.
The baseball that I had blacked out on had burst my tumor, which was several inches big at this point, and I was slowly bleeding to death from inside. The cancer had spread throughout my blood stream to my lymph nodes as well as my muscles and mucosa in my chest and stomach. I was given three Chemo drugs every Two weeks with five days off in between each for Eight months. My oncologist said he had to hit me as hard as he could if I wanted to survive.
My chance for survival was 11 percent. All I could think about that entire time was playing baseball again and getting out of that hospital bed. They had taken 11 inches out of my intestines during the surgery and put me back together, but I was sure I would live and play baseball again. Forget about dreams, my goal was to make pro baseball in my forties. I found an organization called the Black Sox where they took an old man on and gave me a chance with no promises. This is my third season with them, and I believe I have done pretty well. I was drafted #132 by the Four Horseman in the Black Sox NWO draft and play mostly as a pinch hitter or late defense at first base, and when I’m not playing, I coach first base to try to make myself useful. It’s so great every day to just be on the field with the green grass watching some amazing players. Hopefully this pandemic will go away and I can realize my goal of making the BlackSox Road Warrior team and playing against Pro teams on the tour.
The money doesn’t mean anything anymore to me and the status even less. I just want to do what I love for as long as I can. I feel like I’m 21 again. The doctor says if I can live five years then I have a good chance of making it to ten years. This is my fourth year in remission. Cancer had taken so much of my career away from me, but my career is far from over, it’s just starting; and cancer was the best thing that could ever have happened to me. It taught me that life is more than money and status.
Live your life and do what you were meant to do and enjoy every minute of it.