Editor's Note: The following post was written by Coach David, from his hospital bed in the midst of being diagnosed and treated for cancer.
David: Congrats on your first hit!!!! You earned it. I heard a few pro players on our team saying how nice of a swing you have. Keep going.
Joshue: Thank you, but to be honest with you, I have low self esteem playing around them since I’m not on their level. I don't have the speed nor the throwing power and every time I do bad, I feel like I don't even belong here... but I don't want to give up on something that I love doing.
Joshue: I feel like I'm chasing a dream that I'm not going to get.
David: That means you need to work harder at it then if that's the way you feel. Only you are holding yourself back. You need to trust that you can do anything you put your mind to!! I'm in the freaking hospital. Remember I asked to have you run for me? I have anemia and my kidneys are bleeding. I was blacking out at that game because no oxygen was getting to my brain... I’m here in the hospital, and probably will have to stay over night. It sucks - I need blood transfusion. I may be in here few days they said. They’re looking for cancer :(. You only get one life, Joshue, that we're sure of. Make the most of yours. You never know what's in store for the future.
My relationship with Joshue started several months ago when he first came to me with dreams of playing college baseball. Joshue had a few roadblocks in the way of achieving this dream - being overweight and out of shape were the major ones. Nevertheless, Joshue left his job so that he could put what little money he had and all of his focus into pursuing his dream of playing baseball.
Joshue’s determination was inspiring; his whole family rallied around him to help. Man, he had to have been at least 360 pounds when I first met him. His parents and brother drove him to every practice. He never quit on anything.
When you’re starting from such a fitness deficit, it’s important to set achievable goals. Even getting him into a proper mechanical position to perform some of the movements successfully was a real obstacle at first. And it wasn't one of those "mind over matter" instances. Effort aside - he physically could not do it. So, the first few practices were intense physical workouts consisting of plyometrics, weighted medicine balls, body weight resistance, and lots and lots (I mean LOTS) of push-ups.
I put him on a paleo diet, cutting out basically everything that he and his family had been eating at the time. I gave him a shopping list so that he would know exactly what to get and what to avoid. He started the diet right away, and we met for lessons once a week for several weeks.
Joshue never quit, no matter how hard I pushed him. I told him, “ I won’t give up on you, as long as you continue to not give up on me.” I told him to trust that I could get him to the right place as long as he continued to show me effort. I think he was only able to do maybe three push-ups... only three at a time before running out of breath and energy on the first day.
I gave him a daily workout regiment and continued to write to him every few days to make sure he was still working towards his goal. A few weeks into our training, Joshue was doing 50 push-ups at a time, running, and performing sit-ups with weights on his chest - no exaggeration. His commitment to improve was powerful.
I put him into Crossfit daily workouts to improve him even further. He had finally lost enough weight by then to correct his hitting and throwing mechanics so I had him enroll in a softball team to get him back on the field again. After training again for a few weeks more and playing softball to ready himself for baseball, it was time.
He had lost probably close to 80 pounds at least, I would say, by then. His swing was great and he had been throwing for several weeks. I put him into a tryout team here in Florida that picks kids for a spring competitive league. I informed him that it was ok to fail, that this was a huge step and guys in this league throw in excess of 90 mph.
...He skipped the first two games. He missed the first because he said he didn't feel good, and another because the coach hadn’t called him beforehand. All excuses for not going. I knew that. He knew that. So I told him he needed to show up to the next game - no excuses. The coach gave him one inning at bat and one in the field. He struck out but made a play in the field. He was a little down on himself. I told him he needed to keep his head down and keep going. Everyone strikes out in baseball, it's normal!
I called the coach and asked him to give Joshue another chance. The next game he batted .500 with a line drive single and two RBIs. He also made several plays in the field. He was super excited. I was super excited! I told him next game, I'm going to play with him on the tryout team. I hadn’t been feeling very well, but I went regardless.
Game five. They put me in as a catcher. Something was wrong. I was having blackout episodes behind the plate three or four times an inning. By my second inning, I had my first at-bat. I grounded one to third and beat out the throw at first base. After reaching the base, I felt a heaviness in my chest. I was having trouble breathing. I couldn't continue any longer I was so out of breath.
They called for Joshue to run for me. That made me smile. The kid had worked so hard to get to that point. He went 2 for 2 at bat for the rest of the game and made great plays at first. After that game, the coach informed me that Joshue had made the spring team. I was elated.
I went to the doctor the next day for what I thought was asthma or old age - I'm 41 playing a game with 18 to 25-year-olds. The chest X-ray was clean. Awesome. Then they took blood. This time they came back and said that their machine must be broken. They asked me how I felt - if I was experiencing any pain or anything like that. I said no, I feel fine, just a little sleepy. They took my blood again. Same results.
I asked what the results said. They told me my hemoglobin was 6.1 and that I was bleeding somewhere. I didn’t believe them. I told them I was going home to rest. On my way out, the doctor ran outside to tell me to go to the emergency room right away or I may not wake up again.
I spent two hours napping on the floor of the emergency room. My mom went to get a nurse and told them something was wrong. They rushed me into a room and gave me an emergency blood transfusion to save my life.
After numerous tests they diagnosed me with high grade cecum cancer - Lynch Syndrome. They removed the tumor last week but the pathology reported that it spread, and that I now need chemotherapy.
Amongst all of this, I received those messages from Joshue saying that he was feeling extremely discouraged - that he felt like he was chasing a dream that would never come true. I said, look at me. If I give up now, that’s it. That’s it.
So here we are. I have a game with cancer, now, and I know I will win. I hope Joshue never quits on his dream. I hope this gives others who may be grappling with self doubt the courage to keep pursuing their own dreams. You never know where life will take you. Out of the lowest moments of your life, come your greatest achievements as a person.
Thank you for listening to my story.
- Coach David