Orange, Cedgar Ridge ‘basebald’ game raises nearly $9,000
There was a runner in scoring position at third base. The score was tied. The catcher and the pitcher conversed on the mound. Coaches adjusted the brim of their hats. And with a full count, the student-athlete on the mound let loose a spinning pitch, forward.
Granted, the pitch was important. However, when rivals Orange and Cedar Ridge high schools played ball on Wednesday night, players scratched their heads for different reasons.
The “basebald” game was the second annual event and amid studying, practicing, playing and navigating the world as a high school athletes, the boys for these two schools raised funds for cancer research all at the expense of having their heads shaved.
Supported by the softball teams and boosters within both schools and those who contributed money, the efforts on Wednesday night raised nearly $9,000 for pediatric cancer efforts.
While not everyone who watches baseball knows what it is like to stand in scoring position or hold the weight of the world with a key pitch at a key time in the game, we all know or have been affected by this pilfering disease.
In the stands that night was the founder of the Vs. Cancer Foundation, Chase Jones, a Greensboro native and onetime catcher for the UNC baseball machine. Jones knows being in the scoring position as a player and he also knows about diagnosis, prognosis and seeing his life change, and seeing the lives of other pediatric patients end.
“I was diagnosed with brain cancer and I was able to walk out, alive. It changed me,” Jones says. Certainly, Jones is humble in his remarks, as cancer didn’t just change him; it became a seed that grew into Vs. Cancer, a nonprofit organization that raises money for cancer research and efforts, through baseball.
“We have over 40 teams participating right now, from Duke and UNC to local and state high school teams, and my vision is to grow this nationwide,” says Jones.
In the gymnasium following Orange’s one-run win, Jones stands among young athletes and he is humbled by the gratitude these kids exercised in raising money for cancer and their willingness to line up to have their heads shaved. For a moment, the scene in the gym was like that guy who steps onto the high school dance first; everyone was nervous, some laughed, some ran fingers through their hair and the faces of these kids as they volunteered to show physical support for those affected by cancer was, for a moment, playfully heroic.
From Cedar Ridge, Chris Nobblitt, age 18 and the third-baseman and pitcher, said, “I want people to see my head shaved and know that I am doing so to raise awareness.”
In speaking of what it is like to be moments away from having his head shaved, Nobblitt says, “We all have a personal connection and this is one way to show how I am connected.”
From the other dugout, Quinlan Blackmon knows the impact of cancer as both sets of his grandparents have passed due to the disease. “I am having my head shaved in memory of them and as my contribution to something larger than baseball. We all have someone and knowing that I lost grandparents to cancer makes getting my head shaved all the more meaningful,” Blackmon says.
Dean Dease, coach of the Orange baseball team says, “There is so much effort that goes into this and my players are eager to demonstrate their fight for cancer.”
Hours before his team would saddle up and invade Panther Country, Jacson Lowe was confident that he would not have to give a pep talk to his players. “We were playing our rival and we were playing for cancer awareness and some of our players are having their heads shaved, I don’t know of any words that were used to get them motivated,” Lowe says.
Throughout the evening the game was the distraction for why strangers and athletes and parents and friends and administrators came to Orange High. There was purpose and preparation and though there was no formal acknowledgment, cancer survivors were in attendance.
Yet survivors present, that we did not know, wear their badges of cancer personally: scars from surgery, ports inserted in the chest to receive powerful drugs, crackers in a purse to stave off nausea, and recollection of what it was like to lose a head of hair that took a lifetime to grow.
When the staff from Haven Salon in Hillsborough began to shave these young athletes’ heads, the volunteer symbolism was stronger than any loaded-base moment and hurled pitch toward home plate.
Jones began his foundation as a way to give back and to help future pediatric cancer patients. Those who supported and those who had their heads shaved raised money for cancer and raised awareness, all by losing their hair for cancer. For these baseball players, the runner in scoring position is that pediatric cancer patient, waiting to come home.
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