Colorado Rockies right-hander Chad Bettis yesterday made his triumphant return from battling testicular cancer. The 28-year-old Texan pitched seven shutout innings and struck out two while walking none, picking up a no-decision in the Rockies’ 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.
In doing so, Bettis became just the latest in a long line of baseball players who have been diagnosed with cancer during their careers, only to come roaring back.
Bettis’ return provides MLB with yet another opportunity to increase its presence among cancer awareness groups, and baseball itself has ambassadors aplenty.
Bettis the ambassador
Believe it or not, Bettis is the second player this year to have made a return from testicular cancer. Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon was diagnosed with the disease in May and underwent treatment, only to return with the big league club in June. He has posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.48 WHIP on the season, but he is also 25 years old and in just his second MLB season.
And Bettis and Taillon’s stories are just the tip of the iceberg for comebacks from cancer in baseball. Former Florida Marlins and Boston Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1999, his rookie year, but made a full recovery, becoming a four-time All-Star and winning two World Series rings. Chicago Cubs lefty Jon Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma back in 2006 and has since won three World Series titles and pitched a no-hitter.
Most notably, former outfielder Eric Davis was diagnosed with colorectal cancer while playing for the Baltimore Orioles in 1997 and returned to the team that year while still undergoing treatment! He then hit .327 with 28 home runs the next year, at age 36.
There is an opportunity here for MLB to do a lot of good and Bettis can be one of the premier faces of it.
Now, not that MLB has done a horrendous job in spreading cancer awareness. In fact, the sport has made a point of upping its presence in that area. Pink bats and pink-tinted uniforms have become the new normal on Mother’s Day, which is an excellent gesture by Major League Baseball since Breast Cancer Awareness Month itself is in October when only a handful of baseball teams are still playing.
A new tradition was born this year when on Father’s Day weekend, teams wore blue for prostate cancer awareness.
That said, though there have been great strides in researching and treating the disease, cancer is still scary word in everyday life. No matter how great the odds of recovery may be, people still seem to walk on eggshells when discussing it.
This is a prime opportunity for MLB to increase its presence among cancer awareness groups. The individual weekends are nice, but why not wear those uniforms or play with coloured bats on every weekend of the months of May and June? Establishing that as a tradition is only going to further achieve the goal of more cancer awareness and a percentage of the proceeds from games played on those weekends could go to charity.
The NFL has the luxury of having its regular season played during October, and thus the pink gear is out every weekend of that month. There is no reason baseball cannot do the same and make Bettis and Taillon the main ambassadors of the movement.
Doing so would not only bring more attention to their respective stories but also be an exceptional PR move for MLB itself and bring even more attention to the sport.
Thus, if Commissioner Rob Manfred wants his league to be in the same boat as the NFL regarding charity and cancer awareness, he should strongly consider the ideas above, and quickly.
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