It was about a month ago when I heard these frightening words from my friend Dave Roberts..."Newy, I have Stage 2 Hodgkins."
I felt like I had been hit in the gut by Mike Tyson or thrown into a submission hold at one of those steel cage matches.
No one is ever ready to hear those words from a friend, yet alone someone who is only a year away from being a professional athlete and is very much on top of the world in everything he does.
But those were the words and it was very much throwing me for a loop. The news had come right after my own battle with a fractured neck, so I knew about the fragility of life and knew the seriousness of it.
My thoughts immediately went to Dave's family--his wife and two beautiful kids.
I thought about how excited he's been to start his new relationship with the San Diego Padres as a special assistant and how serious he is about preparing for that position.
All of this will be put on hold.
My friend, Doc (D.R.), will have more important matters to tend to during this baseball season and will be relying on the real doctors.
Dave made his formal announcement yesterday that he has Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer.
Now, instead of trying to get a hit off Mariano or steal a base on Pudge or learn the insides of a baseball front office, one of the classiest guys in the game will be battling the impact of chemotherapy, having IVs inserted in his arms. He knows what is ahead, and there is no doubt in my mind who is going to win this battle. You see, my friend is a winner and fighter. The strength he has shown during a successful baseball career should illustrate the strength and the history of success he will bring to this battle.
Dave Roberts has perseverance and faith that only the best will happen--the attitude and the fortitude that enabled him to go from a makeshift co-op team in the California League to what became known as the "Steal of the Century," the swipe of second base in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series that seemed to lift the Boston Red Sox from the brink of elimination and triggered their dramatic comeback victory in that series with the New York Yankees.
It's the fortitude and faith he displayed during 10 years in major league baseball and which will allow him to win this battle. My thoughts and prayers are with my friend, but I already know the outcome. The kind of confidence and strength it takes to steal a base when the opposing team knows you are going to try and an entire nation knows you are going to try is the same mettle that has marked his life off the field as well.
Leo Durocher may have believed that "nice guys finish last," but he obviously didn't know Dave Roberts. My friend will come through this on his feet, and I am sure he will put it to work in his life, as he always has.
Whether it's a shoe drive for needy children, helping his high school sports program, taking time to mentor a kid, or visiting a buddy who is recovering from a fractured neck, Dave Roberts is always there with his special gift for raising a person's spirit and will.
Dave understands the adage that for those who much has been given, much is expected, and he accepts that responsibility with open arms. He has inspired me with his zest for life, and I am confident he will continue to do so, as he will inspire others.
This fight is not an easy one, but Doc is a winner. More than once he has slid in safely when the odds seemed against it.