Pitcher Max Beatty of PLU Makes Special Start on Thursday, June 14 vs. Walla Walla.June 12, 2012
Right-Hander from Vancouver, Washington Returns to Mound After Battle with Cancer
Beatty back in uniform after fight with cancer
by Aaron Yost, Gazette-Times
Max Beatty stradled the out of play line at Goss Stadium, glove on one hand, a baseball in the other, watching the action on the field as more than 2,000 people milled about the stadium.
This is where he wanted to be: at the ballpark, in uniform for the Corvallis Knights.
He can't wait to take the mound again, to toe the rubber and face a batter.
The last time he pitched in a game was as the starter for the Knights in the final game of the West Coast League championship series. Same ballpark. Same team.
His arm feels ready and he's not lacking in desire. He does lack the stamina.
Six months ago it seemed unlikely that Beatty would even be in uniform for the Knights this summer. On Dec. 15, he was in the doctor's office. On the 19th, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Surgery immediately followed.
"It's just a big blow on you. It's something you would never expect," Beatty said. "Then you just have to - my thought process was 'it's something that happened to me. I can't change it, so I just have to battle through it and do everything I can to stay mentally there and get through it.' And I did."
He accepted it [ even the bitter pill that the cancer had spread to both testicles = and determined that he wanted to get back on the baseball field, as soon as possible.
"I don't think any of us can understand what Max has been through in the last six months of his life,' Knights coach Brooke Knight said. "I can honestly say I'm happy to see his face in our dugout and his energy and his spirit out there."
Officially a junior at Pacific Lutheran, Beatty spent most of his time from December on recovering from surgery and - when traces where found still in his system - undergoing massive chemotherapy treatment.
"I don't know if it was because I'm young or I was in shape at the time, but I wasn't that affected by it, like physically through the chemotherapy," Beatty said. "It was more of a stamina thing and I get tired easily.
"I'm getting back into shape, getting back onto this field, my arm feels better than ever. I've had such a long break off of it, it just takes time and I'm working my way back into shape."
He did get to watch a few games with his PLU teammates late in the spring, but it wasn't until the Knights season began on June 1 at Walla Walla, Wash., that Beatty pulled on a uniform again. His first game action came as the designated hitter this past Wednesday in front of 2,162 at Goss Stadium.
Few people - most of the massive crowd were elementary school students - in the stands had even a clue about Beatty's journey. His base hit in the bottom of the third was the team's first and jump-started the Knights' 6-4 victory.
Getting a testicular cancer diagnosis at age 20 was a shock. Getting through the treatment and the recovery - he's still recovering - is as much a mental fight as a physical one.
"Twenty, 21 now, actually, and that's why it's one of those things that just jumps on you and 'wow.' But like I said, there's not much you can do, so you just get through it, keep a positive attitude through it," Beatty said.
For those who know the 6-foot-2 right-hander, his determination to get back on the field is no surprise. Neither is his cheerful attitude.
"I know from playing with him all summer, he's one of the happiest, most uplifting human beings I've ever been around," Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler said.
Wetzler was teammates with Beatty in 2011 on the Knights, along with OSU catcher Ryan Gorton.
"He's always in a good mood. Something bad happens in a game, he'd just laugh. He helped the whole team stay calm and comfortable,' Wetzler said.
"That's one guy, if he sets his mind to it, he's going to do it. I wouldn't be surprised to see him be one of their best pitchers this summer."
Gorton echoed that sentiment. While neither of the Beavers are playing for the Knights this year, they're in Beatty's corner for a complete comeback.
"I'll never question that guy's heart and spirit," said Gorton, who homered in Beatty's last start. "He's a great guy, a hard worker you know, so if anybody could beat it, it's him."
Beatty was more than a starting pitcher last summer - his second with the Knights - he was an inspirational leader in the dugout, too.
"He had a great summer, but even when he wasn't pitching he was the loudest guy in our dugout, always on the top step and stuff, giving us energy," Gorton said. "That's kind of rare on a summer ball team. Sometimes people don't care as much about winning or losing, but that's not how he came to the yard every day."
That spirit is one more reason Knight is pleased to have Beatty back for a third season. His concern is that Beatty is ready for the rigors on the mound, and that's something that will only come with training.
"He's got to make sure the cardio is there," Knight said. "The strength is OK. He starts dragging a little bit. It's diet and exercise and getting back on it."
Beatty's loyalty to the Knights is reflected in the loyalty of his teammates, both in Corvallis and PLU. The Lutes shaved their heads in support of him, while Corvallis team president Dan Segel and Knight visited him during his treatment.
"I got great support from my friends and family, from my school and teammates up there and great support from the Knights, too," Beatty said. "I was staying in communication with all of them...just about all the guys from last year, and even people on this team that I hadn't even met yet, were texting me and calling me."
Beatty has been doing his bullpens, preparing for the call to take the mound again. On Saturday night at Wenatchee, he got into the game and pitched a scoreless inning.
No one who knows him doubts his desire.
"We clearly want to see him back out there," Knight said. "It's a matter of time. He's got to get his energy levels back up."
Beatty has a clean bill of health, from a cancer standpoint.
"It was a real serious matter," Beatty said. "I was able to get through it and now it's a surveillance, is what they call it, and I have to keep checking in. Hopefully I'll keep that going and I'll be good to go from here on out and just keep getting better."
In the meantime, Beatty is doing whatever he can to help the team. Playing DH, throwing when needed, keeping his teammates encouraged no matter what is happening on the field
"We're trying to repeat the championship. We're going to be here all summer, just grinding it out," Beatty said. "I'm all good to go, ready to get back into it."
NOTE: Max Beatty makes his return as a starting pitcher Thursday, June 14 versus the Walla Walla Sweets at Goss Stadium. First pitch is 6:40 pm. The last time Beatty started a college game was against Walla Walla in game two of the WCL Championship Series at Goss.