It seems that in today’s world, everyone knows someone who has been affected by cancer. The presence of the disease in our society is ubiquitous, and baseball is no exception. Sports divide us, but they can also unite us. Sometimes, it’s necessary to look beyond the team and beyond “the laundry” to root for a good story.
Last year’s juggernaut Cubs were a great story for a host of reasons, not least of which was that the team had two cancer survivors on the roster in Jon Lester and Anthony Rizzo. Lester received his lymphoma diagnosis in 2006, after suffering from a back ailment he originally thought was from a car accident in which he was involved earlier in the year. Lester has been incredibly successful both on and off the field in the 11 years since his diagnosis. He’s been a key member of multiple World Championship teams, including the 2007 Red Sox, when he started the clinching game. Even more importantly, Lester has been an ardent supporter of Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (where he received treatment) and his own non-profit, NVRQT (short for “Never Quit”).
Anthony Rizzo also suffered from lymphoma, diagnosed in the spring of 2008, when he was only 19. A prospect in the Red Sox system, Rizzo went through six months of chemotherapy before being told he could likely live the normal life of a professional ballplayer. He too has a foundation, “The Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation,” which is run by his close friends and family.
The stories go on and on. Cancer affects nearly every team in some way. Whether it’s Joe Torre (prostate cancer), Daniel Norris (thyroid cancer), Chad Bettis and Andrew Lambo (both testicular cancer), the disease is extremely prevalent.
The Pirates‘ 25-year-old pitcher Jameson Taillon is the most recent patient, who last month underwent a procedure for testicular cancer. Keeping as bright an attitude as a guy in his mid-twenties possibly can under such circumstances, Taillon announced he underwent the surgery, and doubled down on his ability to bounce back from another detour.
Taillon has dealt with adversity his entire life. He’s been smacked in the head with a line drive, and is a former Tommy John patient. Rather than view these struggles as derailers, he used them as motivators, using this latest bump in the road to drive him to rehabilitate and get back on the mound as quickly as possible. Just a handful of weeks later, Taillon did exactly that.
On Monday, the Pirates faced the red-hot Rockies at PNC Park. Taillon took the hill and threw five scoreless innings. All told, this nightmare of being diagnosed with cancer only led him to miss a half-dozen starts.
Taillon is a resilient survivor and we should all be rooting for his success. Some things (maybe most things?) are larger than baseball, and larger than sports in general. The health of a young man with such great potential to succeed in life cannot be overlooked. I’m rooting hard for Jameson Taillon and you should too.
Taillon’s next start will come against John Lackey and the Cubs Sunday, June 18th at 1:35 EST.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.