There are times when sports are about more than statistics. Monday night will be one of those times for the Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates.
In the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park, the Rockies will send rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland (7-3, 3.34 ERA) to the mound against Jameson Taillon (2-1, 3.31 ERA). While there will be interest in the game overall with the Rockies leading the National League West and the Pirates hoping to get their season kickstarted again, much more attention will be placed on the return of Pittsburgh’s right-handed starter.
Monday will be Taillon’s first game on the mound for the Pirates since being diagnosed with testicular cancer in early May. He shares a trait with Colorado starting pitcher Chad Bettis, who has battled and beaten testicular cancer in a whirlwind few months. Sure, they’re both pitchers but they can also call themselves cancer survivors as well.
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When Bettis returned to the Rockies on an emotion-filled day earlier this month to continue his trek back to the Major League active roster, he talked about how he had formed a connection with Taillon in the days since his diagnosis.
"“I’ve talked to him quite a bit,” Bettis said. “I actually talked to him a couple of days before I had my port removed. How he’s doing is nothing short of great. I texted him and he was talking to me and he was saying, ‘I just want to get back. I just want to get back and do what I love doing. I told him, ‘I get it. I was in the exact same spot you were when I first had surgery.’ I was trying to get back. I wanted to be normal again and play ball and get back to helping our team win.“What he is doing is great. I think it speaks volumes of him and the person he is.”"
Taillon’s return to the mound will not only be emotional for him, but will probably also be as well for Bettis. In the small fraternity of Major League Baseball, Taillon stepping on to the field will likely feel like a victory for not only both Bettis and Taillon but cancer survivors around the country.
We may not be rooting for the Pirates in this game, but we’re certainly pulling for Jameson Taillon when he takes the mound on Monday night.