As the 2011 baseball season comes to an end and the World Series starting in about a week, I would like to end my rookie season of baseball writing with a story that changed in my life.
In the fall 2006, I was a junior at Twinsburg High School and was “On the Football Team”. I was a below average player and a decent JV player at best. I was a baseball guy in a football jersey. Before the season could even start, I had an career ending concussion and was no longer able to play football. I stayed with the team until the end of the season to help out and support my teammates in any way I could.
I can’t tell you much about the 2006 Twinsburg Tiger’s season because as time has gone on by, I forgot more and more about it. I’m sure there are people that can tell you who was the starting offense and defense, the complete schedule and the final record. There is only one moment that sticks out to me and I’ll never forget.
On October 20th, 2006, the Tigers had a pregame speech like never before. The speech was going to be given by a 22 year old assistant RBC football coach named Jeff Newbauer (2002 Twinsburg graduate). Not too many Varsity teams in America have the junior high assistant coach give a pregame speech, but not too many teams had a special situation like ours.
Jeff was dying of Cancer throughout his whole body.
In high school (also in college), I was involved with the school news and worked with video cameras every day. One of the coaches handed me a video camera and asked me to stand in the back of the locker room & film Jeff’s speech. At the time, I had no idea how impacting this moment was going to mean to me throughout my life.
Jeff gave a powerful speech and got the team inspired to take the field. I gave the coach back the video camera and headed out of the field. Jeff was getting a sip of water from the drinking fountain and I patted him on the back on my way out.
Jeff died five days later.
As you could imagine, his death was hard on a lot of people (Family, Friends, and Twinsburg Citizens) and I did not know much about this man until I discovered what he did in the summer of 2006 that would change my views on life forever.
Like myself, Jeff was huge fan of Major League Baseball. His goal was to travel in an RV and catch a game in every MLB stadium with his close friends & family.
Jeff knew he was not going to live much longer and decided to live his dream. He created “Cancer Sucks Ball Park Tour,” where he raised enough money to travel and visit all the ballparks.
“ Although Jeffrey knew his time was limited, he was determined to make it to all 30 major league ballparks to get the word out about cancer awareness while enjoying the escape that being at those games gave him – an escape from the cancer that was taking over his body. That cancer, however, never took over his spirit as he welcomed every opportunity to talk about the need for national focus on this unique group of individuals who suffer from cancer.”- Newbeginning.org
Jeff made it to 26 out of 30 stadiums. He received news coverage locally and nationally. He was on ESPN & CNN spreading cancer awareness and the spirit of baseball. He impacted people all over the country and inspired more. The night before he died, Jeff had tickets to game three of the World Series in St. Louis, but was too ill to attend.
Since I was a child, I always wanted to see the Cleveland Indians play in all 30 stadiums. Justin Fodor (2008 Twinsburg Graduate) and I decided to do a lifelong ball park tour in honor of Jeff. Jeff was four stadiums away from seeing all 30 parks and we had a calling from God to finish Jeff’s goal for him.
I have been to 8 MLB stadiums (Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles, and New York Yankees) and I have 22 more to go. In the 2012 season, options for my next ballpark varies from the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, and the Seattle Mariners.
I know visiting all 30 ballparks will be a challenge, but knowing that Jeff is looking down from heaven, I will not disappoint him and I will still spread the spirit of life, love and baseball like he did in 2006.
For more information on Jeff and his 2006 ballpark tour, visit http://www.newbeginning.org/index.php