Rallying Past Cancer
MOBERLY - Teams overcome obstacles, it's part of the game. One coach fought adversity and his team fought with him.
His name is Gerald Lewis. He's a husband, a father and a coach.
"I coach by encouragement. I'm not a yeller and a screamer and a cusser," says Excelsior Springs Tigers Coach Gerald Lewis. "I coach by encouragement. And when they do something right, I encourage them. My team rules are when you walk on the field it's a hundred percent baseball."
The tigers are a first-year rec team from Excelsior Springs and opponents sensed victory.
Lewis says, "They pretty much marked it as a win first of year. And looking at our team, it's the first year so I can't blame them. But uh, we learned a lot."
After losing four of their first five games, adversity reached a new low when the kids found out they may be losing something more.
"I had a place on the side of my face the size of a number two pencil eraser," explains Lewis. "My wife wanted me to get it looked at and I didn't think it was a big deal. I cut it without saying anything else. I thought if they take it off it's not a big deal. And we'll go on with it."
On May 14th, Lewis got a call from his doctor...it was Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer but the Tigers rallied behind their beloved coach.
"They called me," remembers Lewis, "but that's what kept me going. It's emotional for me that they supported me the way they did."
But with heavy hearts, the team's future looked bleak.
"They wanted to quit. And I told them, you cant give up. I'm not giving up. You cant give up either," says Lewis.
And they didn't. Not one player quit...including the coach's son Gerald Lewis Junior.
"I went to practice this one day and my dad wasn't there," explained Gerald Lewis, Jr. "I tried to help everyone, stay straight in line."
Coach Lewis was supposed to miss two games because of treatment but those games got rained out...and just how Lewis fought back to the field, his team fought with him.
Nine days after I had surgery, we had a ballgame in Carney, Missouri and I went.," explains Lewis "They played lights out. I mean they played unbelievable. Ever since then, they're a different team."
A different team. A mature team. A winning team. After going 1-4 to start the season, the tigers won 11 of their next 13 games.
"It's just a ballgame. In life, it's just a ballgame. And when that games over, we're gonna wake up and we're gonna play baseball again. We're gonna eat again. We're gonna go swimming. We're gonna have friends. It's a game. It's a game. I try to teach them life lessons, not just baseball. Something they can take for the rest of their life," says Lewis.
Lewis says he takes it one day at a time, but his influence on the lives of 18 tigers...is everlasting.