Tulsa Drillers Pitcher, Cancer Survivor Helps Kids Fight The Disease
TULSA, Oklahoma - "It was my everything. Being able to play ball was my only sense of normalcy, and I think it got me through some of my toughest times."
For Drillers pitcher Devin Smeltzer, the game of baseball gives him life. Because at the age of 9, Smeltzer was in the battle of his life.
"It's a horror story, anytime you go through cancer it's not easy, but it gave me this thick skin I have today."
While battling a rare form a cancer, with a mass the size of a grapefruit connected to his prostate and pressing on his bladder, his motivation to fight was baseball.
"The cancer I had was very, very aggressive but it responds well to chemo and radiation. That year was long, it put a damper on my immune system, I'd lost a ton of weight and the treatment were terrible but came out stronger on the other side."
But throughout the loss of weight, he still played. Through chemo, he still played. His story gained traction in his native New Jersey, leading to visits with players like Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, then on the Phillies, seeing the pros gave him more aspiration to get to their level.
"They treated me like a normal ball player, they didn't treat me like I was sick."
Smetlzer's cancer went into remission in 2012. He was drafted by the Dodger organization in 2016, the same year he was deemed cancer free. Through his journey of beating cancer, he's now determined to help other kids dealing with cancer beat cancer through a Strikeout campaign with an organization called Katie's Krusaders.
"I love the game more than anything, but it gives me a platform that I can give back and help kids going through a tough time."
So far he has 10 strikeouts. For each one, you can donate a dollar amount per strikeout.
"The more I strike out the better we'll do and the more people we get to rally behind me the better."
And as a young prospect starting out this season in Tulsa, he's ready to make an impact.
"God has a plan and you don't question it, you take it and make the best of everything he gives you. My goal is to be a big leaguer for a long time, because the longer I'm up there the more I'm going to be able to impact other people."
But let's re-visit a meeting from earlier. Smeltzer practiced with the big club during the spring. Chase Utley was traded to LA in 2015, leading to a full circle moment for both.
"Everything happens for a reason. It turned me into who I am today. It was nice to have that reunion with him and link up. Him taking the time to do that and taking my story to the big league club house, it meant a lot to me and I know it opened some eyes."
Now.,every time he takes to the mound at ONEOK Field this season, he's pitching not only for himself but kids fighting cancer as well.
Getting my story out there and inspiring is why I'm here on this earth and.. who knows who we're helping .. if I've impacted one person then I've done a good job."