© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
03/19/09 6:00 PM ET
New hope for Young cancer patient
Rangers shortstop lifts teen's spirits during Thursday's game
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The way Carson Leslie figures it, he has at least two important allies in his on-going battle with brain cancer. God and Michael Young. "There's no way I could go through this by myself," Carson said while watching the Rangers take batting practice on Thursday morning.
Carson, 16, a sophomore at Covenant School back in Dallas, also has his parents, Craig and Annette Leslie, and his older brother, Craig.
"They are as close as brothers can be," Annette Leslie said. "Craig messes with him just like a regular brother."
The Leslie family were Young's guests on Thursday and threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Rangers game against the Athletics.
"I thought about throwing a curveball, but I don't want to bounce it," Carson said before the game. "So I'll probably throw a fastball."
"He'll probably throw a fastball through my chest," Young added.
Carson, who was a shortstop growing up before having to confront a brain tumor known as medulloblastoma, knew what he was doing on the mound. The crowd got a big kick out of it when he went to the rosin bag behind the mound and loaded up. Then he threw a high hard strike to Young as the crowd roared.
"I've never seen this kid in a bad mood," Young said. "Granted, I don't live with him, but ... He means a lot to me. I've been looking forward to him being here. Hopefully, he and his brother will have a great day. They can relax, be young and enjoy a day of baseball. That's something he loves. It will be a fun day."
Carson was first diagnosed in October 2006. He underwent surgery and almost five months of radiation and chemotherapy. He was clear for a while, then found out in November that the cancer had returned. He has to take a daily "chemo cocktail" of oral pills in the hopes that the treatment will subdue the cancer. An MRI in April will tell if it did, or if other remedies must be pursued.
On Thursday though, the subject was baseball, and Carson watched Young closely during batting practice.
"He's hitting really good," Carson said. "He's going to have a good year."
They met a few years ago. Young and his wife, Cristina, have been actively involved for several years in Wipe Out Kids Cancer and attended a silent auction to benefit the charity. Carson had submitted a painting of Derek Jeter's No. 2 in Pinstripes that attracted the attention of both Young and Kevin Millwood.
The bidding was fierce and hardly silent. They called it quits at $5,000. They both paid up. Young got the painting, and Carson drew a second one for Millwood. Young had Jeter sign the original and gave it back to Carson. It now hangs in his room back in Dallas.
"Derek Jeter was my favorite player growing up," Carson said. "I played shortstop, I always played with the Yankees and wore No. 2."
He still loves Jeter as a favorite player but added, "Michael Young is gaining on him very quickly."
Carson has days that are better than others. He had to reduce his daily dosage slightly this week so he could have enough strength to hang with Young on Thursday. On Friday, the family is planning a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Sun.
"I'm feeling pretty good this week," Carson said. "You have to keep your spirits up."
"This is good for him," Annette Leslie said. "This gets him out of bed and makes him put one foot in front of the other."
It's not easy for anybody, but it's a cause close to Young's heart. His dedicated work with Wipe Out Kids Cancer is one reason why he was named the Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award in the offseason.
"My wife and I got involved years ago," Young said. "Every year I meet new kids and make new friends. Every time you get an opportunity to help, you can see the difference it makes in people's lives ... including your own."
Young admitted it was tough at first. But he has learned to talk to children as his friends and look beyond their dire circumstances.
"I see these kids, for the most part, have incredible attitudes and incredible optimism," Young said. "Because of that, it's easy for me. Carson is a great kid. I'm not going to pretend I know what he's going through, but I have huge admiration for the way he conducts himself, and the way he lives his life."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.