March 10, 2017, was a hard day for Rockies fans, but probably a harder day for Chad Bettis. The 2016 wins leader among Rockies pitchers announced that he will now need chemotherapy following the discovery that his cancer has spread.
Bettis announced his testicular cancer diagnosis in December, when he had surgery in an attempt to be healthy by season’s start. In January, the pitcher was declared cancer free and planned on pitching in the 2017 season. Until the announcement Friday, Bettis had been pitching in Spring Training, preparing for the season. The 27-year-old pitcher was expected to start the season as a seasoned veteran among a young Rockies rotation.
According to this article in The Denver Post, Bettis is optimistic that he can return in the 2017 season although there is a broad timeline for his recovery. Did you hear that Rockies fans? Chad Bettis is optimistic. We should be too.
“But how will the Rockies deal with this hit to their starting rotation?”
That is a question for another day. Today, we are going to take a look at other athletes who have fought cancer, kicked it in the teeth, and then went back to doing what they love. In researching this article, I soon realized that there are many great comeback stories for us to rally around. Here are just a few of my favorites.
Baseball fans may not recognize this name, but if you follow hockey even a little bit, you probably know of Phil Kessel. The speedy-skater is currently attempting to defend his Stanley Cup Championship with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but in his rookie season, Kessel was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Like Chad Bettis, Kessel had surgery in order to keep the cancer from spreading. Luckily, Kessel’s cancer did not spread and he was able to return to play after missing 11 regular season games. Since his rookie year with the Boston Bruins, Kessel has scored 283 goals and 327 assists.
From one former Boston star, we go to another. The same year Phil Kessel was diagnosed with cancer, Jon Lester was diagnosed with a form of anaplastic large cell lymphoma. It was midway through the season when the Red Sox pitcher discovered he had the disease.
Lester underwent offseason chemotherapy, and was able to return to play for the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 season. Rockies fans remember a lot of the 2007 season well, but they may not remember that Lester was the starting pitcher who won the World Series clinching game for the Red Sox. (At Coors Field). Jon Lester went on to win two more World Series Championships, once more with the Red Sox and again last year with the Cubs. He should be fun to watch once again in 2017. Although that 2007 World Series stung for Rockies fans, it can now serve as a sign of optimism for fans as well as Chad Bettis.
Like Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo plays for the Chicago Cubs. Anthony Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, while he was in the minor league system of the Red Sox. He underwent chemotherapy for six months. He made a recovery and returned to play in the Red Sox organization. In 2010, Rizzo was traded to the Padres in the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. Rizzo made his debut in the majors as a member of the Padres, but was traded to the Cubs in 2012. Rizzo has since been a member of the Cubs. He has led an impressive career thus far, posting a .267 Batting Average and a WAR of 21.7 over 6 seasons.
Rizzo and Lester both played major roles for their team last year, when they helped end the franchise’s famed 108 season World Series drought. For further reading, check out this fantastic piece on ESPN.com about the bond between Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester, which started when they were both part of the Boston Red Sox organization.
Last but not least, Eric Davis. Eric Davis was an outfielder who primarily played for the Cincinnati Reds. In May of 1997, Davis was diagnosed with colon cancer. That year, he was a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Eric Davis began chemotherapy.
In September of 1997, while still undergoing chemotherapy, Davis returned to the Orioles lineup. He played 8 regular season games in September, and ended up playing 9 postseason games for the Orioles. As fans may remember, Davis hit a pinch-hit home run in Game 5 of the 1997 ALCS. The home run ended up being the difference in the game, giving the Orioles the win. In 1998, Davis returned to the club and posted a career-best .327 batting average. He would play three more seasons after the 1998 season, finally ending his career in the National League West as a member of the San Francisco Giants.
Back to Bettis
I think most people realize that cancer is a scary thing. I for one know how to react when an athlete suffers an ACL tear or undergoes Tommy John surgery, but it is always a shock to learn that an athlete has cancer. Most injuries come from in-game action. Cancer is different. It comes out of the woodwork when you least expect it, shocking everyone. It can be deadly, hard to kill, and ultimately, it just sucks. It came as a shock in December to Rockies fans, and unfortunately, it returned to haunt us all this month. Being far from the situation, I really can’t fathom what Chad Bettis is going through, yet he remains optimistic. That is strength if I have ever seen it. So put your rally caps on Rockies fans; we are going to rally around Chad Bettis.
The NationalLeagueWest.com offers thoughts and prayers to Chad Bettis and his family at this time. We will stand by Bettis’ side, along with the entire Rockies Community, while he fights this disease. Hopefully, we will soon be able to add his story to this list of great comebacks.