Full warning: I’m burying the lede. Cancer can happen to anyone. Jameson Taillon is 25. I’m 25. You may or may not be 25, or at least within an arm’s length of it. Guys, here’s how to check yourself. Ladies, here’s your link. You won’t regret checking.
On Monday, the question of “how can this season get any worse” was given a definitive answer. Jameson Taillon, one of the most promising young starters in the game, was treated at Allegheny General Hospital for suspected testicular cancer. It’s one of those stories that comes two or three times a season and is larger than the game itself. It’s terrible not just for Pirates fans, but fans of baseball in general.
I don’t know Jameson that well personally. I’ve pulled him aside once or twice for an interview, and he always talks to the media after he pitches, but that’s about it. It’s a baseball-only relationship. He could be really big into crocheting and I wouldn’t know.
What I do know is that he has a good head on his shoulders. He’s mature far beyond his years, and I can say that as someone who is immature far beyond my years. If I can steal a Hurdle-ism, he’s an impressive young man. He’s easy to root for, both on the field and what he has to go through off it.
If Taillon never plays in another game but beats this disease, it’s a great trade, and anyone who disagrees isn’t a real fan. That being said, he’s the type of guy who could lose a leg and I would still be convinced he would come back to pitch. Tommy John surgery didn’t stop him. A hernia didn’t stop him. Only a sucker would bet against him now.
Minutes after the Pirates announced he was getting treatment, Taillon took to Twitter to tell everyone he was going to kick cancer’s ass.
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) May 8, 2017
He’s right. “Manhood” isn’t between the legs. It’s between the ears.
If he (or anyone else) needs any inspiration that he can come back, he’s not alone. The Rockies’ Chad Bettis was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November. He found out it unexpectedly spread this March, and he is now at the tail end of his chemotherapy. He’s the proud papa of a one month old and has vowed to pitch this season. If you’re rooting for Jameson, root for Chad, too.
Daniel Norris of the Tigers didn’t let Thyroid cancer stop him in 2015. Jon Lester went from being told he had anaplastic large cell lymphoma in 2006 to pitching the deciding game in the 2007 World Series. Anthony Rizzo battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008 and won. In addition to becoming a world champion, Rizzo also runs a Class A charity. The same day Taillon’s news broke, the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation donated $3.5 million to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, which will be used as grants to families who can’t afford their child’s cancer treatments. If you want to help, donate here.
Mike Lowell, Derek Lowe and John Kruk all overcame their disease and returned to the majors. According to Rob Biertempfel, Kruk has already reached out to Taillon. He wants him to take it slow. It’s good advice.
But if those guys are perhaps too old, too far away or too “on the rival team”-y, there is always James Conner. Conner was a few years younger than Taillon when he found out he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but he was just as confident as him when he started getting treatment. The conviction in which he spoke with when he announced his diagnosis was all the proof anyone needed that he was going to be OK.
“When I heard those words–`You have cancer’–I admit I was scared,” Conner said on Dec. 4, 2015. “But after thinking about it for a bit, I realized that fear is a choice. I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it and I will win.”
Conner won overwhelmingly. He came back, had another fantastic season with the Panthers and then was drafted by his hometown team. The Steelers looked past the disease and saw the man. His number 30 jersey is going to be one of the most popular in Pittsburgh this year.
Right now, there are over 14 million people living with cancer in America. Pittsburgh has top notch facilities and will administer thousands of treatments this year. Like Conner, Taillon is going to be an inspiration to a lot of Pittsburghers. If Taillon can do it, so can you.
One of the many reasons why baseball is beautiful is because it is filled with people who overcame great obstacles. A seven year old at a Maryland reformatory/orphanage grew up to his 714 home runs. A one-armed pitcher threw a no-hitter, and perhaps more amazingly, had two career hits. An African American man broke through decades of establishment racism, and then 70 years later a South African who grew up in a clubhouse with his mom and brother represents a continent.
This is just the next thing Taillon has to overcome. He will.