A Feel Good Story: It’s not about me anymore

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The grateful nine year-old

Devin Smeltzer had never expected to pitch in the Major Leagues. He was diagnosed with cancer at the age of nine. A softball-sized tumor required surgery, chemotherapy, and a feeding tube. Since leaving Philadelphia’s St. Christopher Hospital for Children, wrote Ben Rohrbach after Devin started pitching in the minor leagues two years ago,

he’s scrawled the names of those who have inspired him on his cap — friends and family members diagnosed with cancer and the many children he’s seen pass through the doors at St. Christopher’s upon volunteering each month.

Ben Rohrbach

Then it happened. The Twins called him up from the Pensacola Wahoos, the Twins’ Double-A affiliate in Florida, to stand in for the fifth member of their pitching rotation who’d been placed on the Disabled List for a short while.

Twenty-three year-old lefty Devin Smeltzer, the cancer patient in remission, blew through six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers, one of the toughest lineups in the League. He performed like an Ace — think Sandy Koufax, Ryan Nolan, Steve Carleton — allowing no runs, just three hits, and seven strikeouts in six full innings.

A second start

Tonight in Cleveland, Devin Smeltzer will take the mound for a second start in a Minnesota Twins uniform. As he has done since rejoining his Little League team following his release from St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Devin will not take the mound alone. The cancer patients, his family, and medical staff will go with him under the bill of his cap.

Devin Smeltzer is a singularly remarkable life story. Equally remarkable, no matter how he pitches tonight or whether he makes it as a major league pitcher, is his humility and gratitude.

“My story’s not about me anymore.”

“My story isn’t about me anymore,” he told CBS Philadelphia this past spring. “My story is about giving hope to other people. There was a kid almost the same age as me. He didn’t make it. The hardest thing about going through cancer is meeting all these amazing people, and those people passing away and you moving on. I remember Frankie. There was Baby Lea, and it was hard to hear when she passed away. She was under 2. That’s the hard part. I beat cancer, but the battle is still there. I’ll always have it. You have to help the people that have helped you — and there are a lot of people that have been there for me.”

Ben Rohrbach, Yahoo Sports

Not many of us write the names of others under the bills of our caps or make it to the Big Leagues. But there are more like him. Mostly unseen. Behind the scenes showing the same gratitude, humility, courage, and compassion that quietly bless others every day without the cheering of the crowd.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, June 2, 2019

Paul Molitor: a memory

Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor [ML Baseball Hall of Fame] was hired yesterday as the new Manager of the Minnesota Twins.

In 1994 Mr. Molitor stood ahead of me in line at a McDonalds at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. It was Sunday around noon. I had rushed there from morning worship at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis with no time to remove the clerical collar I’d worn in worship.

“Good Morning, Father,” he said, assuming, I suppose, I was a Roman Catholic priest, or perhaps, just being respectful. “Good Morning, Mr. Molitor, what a pleasant surprise.”

We got our BigMacs or some other unhealthy fast food and sat down together, as I recall it, at Paul Molitor’s invitation.

What I remember is his respectful nature and his humility. I congratulated him for his amazing performance in the 1993 World Series was the best performance I’d ever seen by a ball player. He was named MVP in the series in which he led the Toronto Blue Jays to win the series. He batted 500, reached base 57.9 % of his at bats, Had two doubles, two triples, two home runs, eight Runs Batted In, and a 1.000 Slugging Average.  Nobody does that. No one before. No one since.

He responded something like. “I was lucky. Thank you, Father.” He’s number one in my book. He’s make a great manager.