family

Living Strong


-David Strobach-

In honor of the anniversary of my brother Zach kicking cancer’s butt, I wanted to post our story.

 

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I was sitting at the kitchen table one afternoon, in early October, 2005 drawing a picture.  My sister Delilah was at her friend’s house, my brother Zach went to a car show with friends, and my twin, Sophie, was home with me. The sun was shining, trying to add warmth to the crisp cool fall day.  And, there I sat, carefree, enjoying the pretty fall colors, drawing leaves with assorted crayons of red, yellow, and orange.  Then, my mother received a troubling phone call from one of Zach’s friends.  His friend, Nate, with a sickening worry in his voice told my mother that Zach was having intense pain in his groin and lower back.  He couldn’t even walk.  I saw my mom put down the phone, knowing something was wrong from the look on her face.  Even though I was only five years old, I could sense something wasn’t right.  That was when the darkness came.

As soon as Zach got home, my mother rushed outside.  I never actually saw Zach and that’s when I knew that it could be more serious.  She told me she had to take Zach to the hospital.  That’s when I flipped my picture over to draw something else.  I started to draw a picture for Zach of him in an ambulance.  I was hoping everything would be okay.

Looking back, I remember my mother telling me that she thought Zach may have just torn or popped something in his groin or lower back because he was a skater and may have fallen.  She thought some movement may have made it “out of whack.”  Zach had a slight pain for a little while before the car show day.  He even went to a chiropractor for some physical therapy.  This was a very reasonable and a logical thought.  She was very wrong and the darkness stayed.

Mom transported Zach from his friend’s car to our car and rushed him to the hospital.  There, they found a mass on one of Zach’s testicles.  My mom heard a vague comment about Lance Armstrong, but was confused. They wouldn’t tell her anything other than to come back the next morning to see a specialist.  They decided to do immediate surgery even without a biopsy.  A biopsy was too risky because there was a risk that trying to extract this suspicious mass would cause some cells to fall into the bloodstream.  If some cells fell into the bloodstream, it could spread throughout his body.

After surgery, the doctors reported to my parents that Zach had cancer for sure.  It was called testicular cancer.  They told her it was the most aggressive type of cancer cell.  The doctors did say that they believed that they extracted all of the cancer.  Zach was sent home and everything was thought to be okay.  They also found nothing in his blood cells to detect cancer.  They didn’t know Zach was “marker negative,” which means the cancer cells would not come up in blood tests.  My mother thought it was strange that he was just fine.  Maybe it was just the darkness, but she had a gut feeling that something was wrong.
Just to be sure, my mother wanted a second opinion.  She took Zach down to Rush hospital in Chicago.  The doctor they saw was a trained specialist in this field.  He worked under the doctor that treated the famous biker, Lance Armstrong, who also had testicular cancer.  After Zach was checked out, the doctors brought back terrible news.  The cancer had already spread to parts of his abdomen and lymph nodes. It would be awhile before the light and laughter would return to our home.

It’s so weird how life can literally change in an instant.  Before this, Zach was on top of the world.  He had just turned sixteen, had a girlfriend, got a driver’s license, and he got a sharp little sports car.   He had just started his junior year at Walden H.S.  Then it came all crashing down on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  The clouds and the darkness came in the form of cancer, an uninvited stranger in our home.  If left unchecked, the cancer would have progressed to the lungs and to the brain.  Zach again needed a very complicated and immediate surgery.  If my mother didn’t trust her gut and didn’t bring him in for a second opinion, the doctors said Zach would have died within six months to 2 years.

My mom and dad, understandably, had trouble dealing with the news.  They felt overwhelmed, depressed and shocked.  They couldn’t process and learn all the necessary information fast enough.  My sister, Delilah, was in fifth grade and adored Zach.  She was scared, but young enough to be a little clueless.  Sophie and I could sense something was wrong, but we were confused.  Cancer was like having an unwelcome stranger move in, where everyone is acting differently, and I tried to be on my best behavior. Sadness clouded our family.  We were scared that we didn’t know what was wrong.  There many hushed phone calls and sleepless nights for us all.  Zach was down mentally and physically, scared, exhausted, yet hopeful, and strong.  It was frustrating for him to have to rely on everyone else to do things for him.  Zach was used to being thought of as a good-looking guy and vanity wise, it began to hurt his ego.  He just wanted life to get back to normal.

In the surgery they removed all of the cancerous areas that were shown on the MRI’s.  Then, they ordered several treatments of chemotherapy to flush out all remaining cells.  He was out on a six month plan which was considered short, but still treacherous.  Chemotherapy is a variety of medicine that they put through an IV in your body to attack your cancer cells.  But in fact, it really is poison that kills the fastest growing cells in your body which include the lining of your mouth, your intestines, white blood cells, hair, nails, skin, and finally cancer cells.  So while you’re attacking cancer cells, you are attacking all of those other things.  A lot of people think chemotherapy is one thing, but each phase is different.  It’s specifically designed for each patient.  There is also some trial and error because too much can harm you and too little wouldn’t help at all.

Just when you think having cancer is bad enough, going through the chemotherapy results in devastating side effects.  When mom brought Zach to the chemotherapy section of the hospital she said it sucked the air out of her lungs and she couldn’t breathe.  Everyone around her looked like they were dying.  She realized Zach would look like this soon.  Zach lost his hair everywhere on his body.  He once said that you don’t realize how much you need you nose hair because when you bend over everything drains out. He laughed, a little bit of light broke through.  His hair follicles even hurt.  A vivid memory my mother still sadly tells me is when Zach was lying in the hospital bed and complained that his head hurt.  When he shifted, a huge chunk of his beautiful, black, thick hair was now part of the pillow and no longer a part of Zach.  It took my mother’s breath away and she was speechless as she started to tear up.  When Zach lost his hair I remember being terrified of him. Until then, the scars and gory stuff was buried beneath bandages and clothes.  Now, I could see the metamorphosis left behind by cancer.  Sunken, lifeless eyes and pale grey, hairless skin moved into my brother’s body. Zach was so weak, so sad that his little siblings, including myself, were scared of him.  He was frightened, not recognizing his own reflection in the mirror.

The darkness grew and black spots began to appear on his fingertips and toes.  It was the chemo burning his body from the inside out.  Also as a result of the chemo, Zach had painful ulcers in his mouth and intestines.  He experienced nausea and brain fog.  My mother tells me that one day Zach woke up screaming and peeing blood because of kidney stones caused by the chemotherapy.  To try to counteract some of the side effects they gave Zach steroids.  These at least provided some relief and gave Zach an appetite, but also resulted in a bloated look, further distorting his normal good looks. But Zach, my brother, my inspiration, was not going to be beat.

Glimmers of light started to appear and brighten our home and Zach’s spirits.  We were all going to battle to fight this!  Zach’s support from Walden was monumental.  Students and staff sent him well wishes and bought him a PSP video game to occupy his time at home. Many of his friends were always there for him.   At my grade school and church, St. Rita’s, we would pray for him every day.  We were fortunate to have many friends and family that helped make and deliver meals to our house.  The support and prayers from others helped us greatly as well. The doctors and nurses were amazing.  They all began to provide hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel that drove out the darkness.


About a year later, Zach was finally done with treatment.  It’s a bitter sweet, and somewhat fearful feeling that treatment is over.  It didn’t feel like an endgame, it felt like a waiting game to see if “it” comes back.   Zach wasn’t going to sit around and wait for anything, there was too much living to do. Zach went on to enjoy prom, graduate from high school and get a degree from Marquette University. He is happy, healthy, handsome again, and the bravest man I know.  And here I sit, nine years later, at the kitchen table, not drawing but typing. The sun is shining brightly, adding warmth to a glorious cool day.

“You beat cancer by HOW you live, WHY you live, and in the manner in which you live.”

-Stuart Scott

 

Put Pitchers in the Derby!


-David Strobach-

Recently in the media there have been tons of buzz about a pitcher possibly being in the Home Run Derby. Specifically, a lot of talk about Madison Bumgarner . Noah Syndergaard, aka “Thor,” has expressed interest in this event as well as Jake Arrieta.  Also, Adam Wainwright wants a part in the derby.  Should the MLB have a pitcher’s Home Run Derby or let them hit with the big boppers?  The answer to either question is YES, absolutely.

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

This is something baseball needs.  It’s a breath of fresh air to the All-Star break and would be wildly entertaining. The new derby rules the MLB put into place were a fantastic addition last year, but this would make the event even better.  Having either a pitcher derby or throwing some in with everyone else would make the event must-see T.V.  The MLB has even discussed the possibility having a pitchers derby.  It would probably make more sense to only add a pitcher or two to the mix of all other players.

It is totally understandable for teams and managers to be worried about the health of the pitchers if they partook in this.  It’s the ony arguemnt on why pitchers shouldn’t be included.  It’s safe to to say all of Chicago would be furious if Arrieta went out there swinging out of his shoes, causing a severe oblique strain.  No team wants their ace going down for a fun little show.  It’s risk that has to be taken for every player that participates.

Out of all players, I truly believe MadBum could give everyone a run for their money in the derby.  Some players are mesmerized by his batting practice sessions.   He’s simply a BEAST or “ox-strong, farm-bred,” as Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson described him.  After all, he has homered twice off one of the greatest pitchers of our time, Clayton Kershaw.  Watch, in awe as MadBum drops two bombs off the star lefty.  If these two swings don’t influence you to put him in the derby, I don’t know what will.

 

 

Imagine MadBum sailing balls into the sand of Petco Park, Thor using his hammer to crush balls out and Arrieta hitting bombs off of Western Metal Supply Company in left field.  Talk about a the best All-Star event ever.  Baseball, it’s time for pitchers to be involved in the Home Run Derby!

 

What would you think of this?  Should they be included or have their own derby?

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The Revelation of Jonathan Villar


-David Strobach-

Brewers shortstop, Jonathan Villar, has been nothing short of a revelation.   He was supposed to be just a gap shortstop until top prospect, SS Orlando Arcia, made his way up.  He was acquired this past off-season from the Astros in exchange for minor league RHP Cy Sneed.  Jonathan Villar has been a stud for the Brew Crew this year. Why is no one talking about him?  Let’s see just how good Villar has been.

Source: Mike McGinnis/Getty Images North America

Villar, only 25 years old, is slashing .296/.387/.426 with an OPS of .813, 5 home runs, and a league leading 23 stolen bases.  Jonathan has exceptional on-base skills with his .387 OBP.  As soon as he gets on first, it’s almost a sure bet he’ll be swiping second.  Villar has been hitting around .300 all year and it is far enough into the season to say he is no fluke.  He’s challenging pitchers with every aspect of his game.  His most underrated tool is his defense.  Defensively, Villar makes the plays and is always smooth at short.

FanGraphs states in their post on Villar: “Villar is on pace to hit 13 home runs, steal 60 bases, and bat .292. That’s 2014 Jose Altuve, but more power and less batting average.” That’s a pretty darn good way to look at how well he has been performing.  Mentioning Jose Altuve‘s name in the same sentence as Villar’s shows what kind of player he has been.  If you would like a more advanced breakdown on his success, I encourage you to read FanGraphs work.

From a fantasy perspective, ESPN fantasy baseball has him ranked as the seventh player in all!  Pretty amazing for a huy that was only supposed to be “gap player.”

Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports

What makes Villar even more valuable is that not only is he playing All-Star caliber baseball, he’s young (25) and controllable (Brewers control through 2020).  David Stearns, Brewers GM, has said time and time again how his main goal is to find young controllable talent and he has found quite a hidden gem in Jonathan.  Villar should be a valuable core in the Brewers rebuild by moving positions (probably 3rd) when Arcia comes to take his spot. Let’s all applaud David Stearns for this fantastic find.

 

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My Baseball Mom


-David Strobach-

Here’s a poem I wrote for my amazing MOM!!!  Love you! HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

 

My Baseball Mom

 

 

She cleans out stains

 

AND fixes your pains

 

 

 

She cheers for a bomb

 

Everyone loves a baseball mom

 

 

 

She throws soft toss

 

Because She’s the boss

 

 

 

She can always find your cup

 

Because she knows what’s up

 

 

 

She can still even play

 

A baseball mom, YES WAY

 

 

 

You think your mom is better

 

But does she know a table setter

 

 

 

She’ll find your every lost sock

 

And knows the ump’s calls are a crock

 

 

 

She shows up all men

 

A baseball mom is a ten

 

 

 

When you’re in a horrid slump

 

They give you a perfect bump

 

 

 

A baseball mom knows the way

 

What else can you even say

 

 

 

She can calculate an average

 

While drinking her beverage

 

 

 

Have you ever seen her swing

 

A baseball mom is the king

 

 

 

Yes, a king, not a queen is what I say

 

Plays like one every day

 

 

 

She can mend a glove

 

What’s not to love

 

 

 

In the dugout she wants a kiss

 

This is someone you never diss

 

 

 

I love my baseball mom

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What Makes Baseball The “Mental Game”


-David Strobach-

 

Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical,” to explain how valuable the mental side of the game is.  What makes baseball the “mental game?”

There’s a nice amount of time in between each pitch whether you are hitting or fielding.  When you are fielding, you can think about what you’ll do with the ball if it’s hit at you.  Then, when the ball is hit, the reaction has to be within a split second.  If you make an error in those few seconds– everyone knows you’re the one who screwed up.  Baseball isolates you when you fail.  With all the time in between pitches, negative thoughts start creeping into your mind.  “How did I miss that?  What did I do wrong?  Was it my mechanics?  Did I misjudge it?”  Then, another ball is hit in your direction and you airmail it over first base.  “Jeez, 2 errors in the same inning.  What is wrong with me!?!!  What am I doing?”  An inning can feel like an eternity as you stand at your position, internalize the error and start to second guess everything. The fact that baseball gives you time to think and analyze before every pitch should be a positive attribute of the game. Unfortunately, for some, it can also be its most negative and self defeating attribute.

A sort of fear can build up inside of you, and you begin to hope that you don’t get the ball so you don’t mess up again.  You have already lost, if you have the fear of opportunity and fear of failure.   This dead time can kill you mentally.  As you start to second guess everything, you start to lose focus and perform even worse. Everything becomes very forced. Yogi Berra also said, “A full mind is an empty bat,” which exemplifies exactly what I’m trying to say.  The more you think, the worse the outcome.  It is fine to think about the situations in the game, but never to think about personal failure.   There’s even a medical term for this, “paralysis by analysis.”  By over analyzing yourself, it will paralyze your results. Clear your mind and visualize yourself succeeding, the results can be amazing by simply not overthinking.

Instead of  fear of another failure, a great player wants another opportunity to show they can get the job done.  If they make an error, or strike out, they look forward to the next time.  Self-confidence, is the common trait in all great players.  They know and believe in their abilities.  If you don’t believe in yourself, how are you supposed to ever succeed in anything?  The greats know they can hit and field-they’ve been training their whole lives.  During a slump, they just have to work through it.  You have to have the mental toughness to understand failure and how to over come it.  When I make an error at third base, I always think to myself that my favorite player, David Wright, who is a fantastic defender even makes errors.  He knows how to recover and make the next play. Self-confidence, not cockiness is key.  You have to trust yourself.

What makes baseball the “mental game” is the time it gives you to think.  Those who succeed have the self-confidence to overcome any obstacle.  It’s an amazing thought that a game can be won or lost in your head.  The most athletically gifted person in the world may lose to an average athlete because of a lack of mental toughness.  So, get out there, play ball, and don’t think too much!

 

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Take Note Sports World, The MLB Got It Right With Domestic Violence


-David Strobach-

Commissioner Rob Manfred made his first domestic violence stance since the new policy was implemented in August.  Closer, Aroldis Chapman, of the New York Yankees was punished and accepted a 30 game unpaid (will lose $2 million) suspension starting Opening Day for his abusive actions back in October, 2015.  Chapman allegedly pushed and choked his girlfriend and fired gun shots into the wall of his garage.  No charges were filed, but that didn’t stop the MLB from stepping in swiftly to lay down the law and send a powerful message to the MLB.  Manfred’s statement below:

Manfred did a good job conducting an investigation and acting quickly, within four  months, to discipline Chapman.  Aroldis denies he harmed his girlfriend, but in his statement he said he acted inappropriately:

“Today, I accepted a 30 game suspension from Major League Baseball resulting from my actions on October 30, 2015. I want to be clear, I did not in any way harm my girlfriend that evening. However, I should have exercised better judgment with respect to certain actions, and for that I am sorry. The decision to accept a suspension, as opposed to appealing one, was made after careful consideration. I made this decision in an effort to minimize the distractions that an appeal would cause the Yankees, my new teammates and most importantly, my family. I have learned from this matter, and I look forward to being part of the Yankees’ quest for a 28th World Series title. Out of respect for my teammates and my family, I will have no further comment.”

 

The MLB, MLPA, and Rob Manfred have my approval and respect for their handling of this domestic violence issue.  They created a new policy, stuck with it strongly, and sent a message to the league.  There will be no appeal, which is thankfully avoiding more conflict with the commissioner and arbitration.  If Chapman would have lost the appeal, he could have ended up having more games added to his suspension.  30 games is a good time length because if the suspension lasted 45 games or any longer, it would have prevented Aroldis Chapman from becoming a free agent due to service time.  Hopefully,  Aroldis will use this time to reflect on his actions and perhaps receive some counseling.   The message that domestic violence will not be tolerated in professional baseball by any means was well sent.  The whole situation was not a “circus” and it was handled professionally, unlike similar issues in the NFL.  Other sports take note, the MLB got it right with its domestic violence stance.  Let’s hope this step in the right direction continues across all sports.

Stay tuned for possible decisions on Jose Reyes and Yasiel Puig in the near future.

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Baseball Mirrors Life


-David Strobach-

There is no sport that truly shows all aspects of life like the game of baseball.

Baseball is one of the only sports without a clock, but always has an end.  There’s no telling how far the end could possibly be for a baseball game.  This can also be said about life.  We know we are living, but never truly know when the game of life will come to a close.  Throughout the game of baseball, you may miss that fastball down the middle,  your golden chance at success.    In life, there are times you may have a great opportunity, but miss it.  “Strike 3,” calls the umpire as you have your walk of shame back to the dugout after failing.  You may sometimes have that bad day in life, but don’t worry, there is always another at-bat, there’s always another day.  In life and baseball, it’s important to embrace our mistakes and failures, learn from them to make us all better for that next opportunity, that next at-bat. Go up to the plate after being 0-3 and take advantage of your next at bat, make contact or better yet, smack a home run. Don’t go down just “looking.” Flunk that test or bomb that job interview?  There will be another. Go prepare, practice, and kill it when the next opportunity presents itself.  Be proactive and don’t go down looking–with opportunities passing you by. Create an opportunity on the baseball field and in your life. You never know when the time will come, but always be ready.   After all, baseball is a game of failure….and so is life with many unpredictable variables—But that’s what makes it exciting!  Life and baseball can be disappointing and hard at times. So, take responsibility and action through practice, pushing yourself and trying new things.  Play every game and live every day to the fullest because you never know when the last game or day of your life will come.

In baseball, a sacrifice bunt or sac fly can be difference makers in a game.  In life, let’s say you have that big test Monday, but want to go to the football game on Friday.  Maybe money will be tight for you and have to chose whether you spend money on those new shoes or save it for your family’s well-being.  There’s always decisions to made about when and how to sacrifice something, in both life and baseball.  You could look like a big shot with those Jordan’s and look like the hero hitting that game winning three run homer.  Saving that money you spent on those J’s may help your family out a little bit, but you feel no pleasure or status since you don’t have those shoes.  Laying down that sac bunt helps the team win games and you may not get any notice or love for it.  You sacrificed a chance and your personal stats to look the hero for the sake of the team. Sacrificed those  J’s that you think would get all the ladies in order to help  your family.  Sacrifices may not be easy, but in the end it’s what will make all the difference allowing many to benefit.

A popular saying is that it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes a team to win a championship.  In baseball and life you can never be successful on your own without anyone helping.  A strong supporting cast is always needed. So when things are going badly, reach out to your teammates, family and friends.

In life, you can never have full control of what’s going on.  There are always roadblocks.  When you go up to bat, you have to go with what pitches are thrown and make the most of it.  In life, you have deal with the cards you’re dealt and make the most of it as well.  Life and baseball can be incredibly frustrating.  Sometimes you can do everything right in both and STILL fail.  Sometimes things look like they’re going well for both, but change drastically in a matter of moments.  From hitting a line drive straight to the CF, missing a home run by inches, having your bat break, or getting a bad call – baseball is unfair.  In life, you may be doing great at your job and still get laid off.  Everything in your family could be going well, and suddenly tragedy hits.  It’s not fair.  It’s how you deal with adversity that makes you who you are and how you will eventually succeed.  So, get up to the plate, take action, and make something happen.

 

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