Casey joins a special cause with MLB
Pirates first baseman's uncle and coach beat prostate cancer
PITTSBURGH -- Prostate cancer.
Two tough words for any man to take.
When Pirates first baseman Sean Casey found out his uncle was diagnosed with it, he couldn't believe it.
"When you hear the word cancer, it's the first word you hear," Casey said. "It's kind of taboo."
Fortunately, Casey said, doctors appear to have caught his cancer early, and his uncle is doing well now.
All the more reason for Casey and the rest of Major League Baseball to raise awareness of prostate cancer on this Father's Day weekend. On Sunday, umpires, coaches and players around baseball will wear blue wrist bands, blue ribbon decals and blue eye glare and information cards decreeing fans to be vigilant of the most prevalent non-skin cancer in men will be passed out in stadiums nationwide.
And Sunday also marks the end of the annual Home Run Challenge, which last year raised more than $2 million toward the fight against prostate cancer. After two weeks and 45 games of homers and fan pledges, all 30 teams in today's contests will take part in the challenge.
Casey, for one, appreciates the league's efforts.
"[I think] this is doing a great job in saying, 'Hey man, nobody's immune to this and we've got to stay on top of things,'" Casey said. "I think at some point prostate cancer has touched a lot of people. It's way more common than people think."
More than 234,000 men in America will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. And it's a figure expected to surge to more than 300,000 annual cases by 2015 as the baby boomers continue to age. The odds of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer in his lifetime is one in six.
It's a shocking statistic, but when discovered early, prostate cancer has a cure rate of 90 percent. Which is why spreading the word on the importance of getting checked is so important to Casey. He's intimately witnessed its benefits.
He's seen it with his uncle, and he's seen it with his college coach at the University of Richmond.
Ron Atkins embodied baseball to Casey. And, more importantly, he was a friend. So, like with his uncle, there was the instant refusal to accept such news that at the time so devastated him.
Atkins became the one soothing Casey's worries.
"I just couldn't believe it, but he's like it's more common that you think and I'm going to beat it," Casey said. "[And] that was the best thing about coach, the way that his attitude stayed positive. He said he was going to beat it and he did. He's still coaching there, and he's still doing well."
It's a story of hope, for a disease that all too often offers little. If only every story had such an ending. That, Casey said, is the ultimate aim. His hope.
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.