Find a League In Your Area
Editor’s Note: I do not know John Keazirian personally, though we have
communicated recently about life, how cancer has thrown him a curve, as well as his MSBL presence in Chicago, where
I have also played and share wonderful memories. I do know Charlie LaDuca from ProBats a
little better, as Charlie’s company has been a consistent advertiser on our
website. Charlie has become a friend so I paid
close attention when he sent me a note (below) that his long time friend John Keazirian sent him while
in a reflective mood. There are messages
within this narrative that I think are important to share, as John paints the
integral parts of a marriage between life, health, success, failure and
In the words of John Keazirian…July 15, 2017
I first had the pleasure of meeting Charlie LaDuca, founder and owner
of ProBats, about fifteen years ago at a booth on the concourse of the Tempe
Diablo Stadium. I was playing on a team from the Chicago North MSBL at the MSBL
World Series in Phoenix.
Recently Charlie found out I was going through another round of chemo
therapy while I continue in my fight with lymphoma. One way or another I've
been fighting cancer since 1988, initially receiving radiation therapy followed
by chemo therapy from time to time as needed. In my younger days, I had pushed
through and kept playing ball but this time I have had to take a few weeks off
in the first weeks of my chemo regimen. I mentioned to Charlie that I had just
played in my first game after returning from my chemo treatment and didn't fare
too well. He encouraged me and my sister telling her that I had the right
spirit and to tell me to keep fighting.
Hearing Charlie's words really spoke to me and made me reflect on the
benefits I've received from playing baseball into my 60s, with some of my
teammates well into their 70s. I reflected on the place that baseball as a
sport has had in my life and the place of honor that my teammates and other
ball players hold in my life.
I think very highly of the game of baseball because it is about the
only sport that virtually everyone can play. Any age, shape, size and skill
level can compete satisfyingly in one way or another. I have played all the major
sports throughout my life. In all of this time I've never found a sport that so
traditionally and consistently provides the joy of good old-fashioned fun and
fellowship as does the game of baseball. No sport sets aside half of their
contest to provide a time and place for socializing the way baseball does when
teams are gathered in their dugouts. And remarkably this social aspect of the
game, which provides a rare escape from the pressures of life for many of us,
takes nothing away from the urge to compete at the highest levels we can muster.
I think very highly of the players of the game of baseball. I have
never found a sport that provided as even a distribution of every cross section
of American residents as baseball. Over the years I have seen the baseball community
in Chicago become a band of brothers whose role in each other’s lives goes far
beyond the role of on-field teammates. The relationships go deeper and have
become pillars that we can lean on in times of need.
As we have aged many of us have found that our personal needs have
become more and more profound. Our need for empathetic support goes beyond things
like supporting each other though the injuries, the surgeries, the implants and
the diseases to now include the devastating and family shattering experiences
like divorces and untimely deaths.
It's been my privilege to see the way my
friends and teammates have provided support just within the past months for
teammates who are facing horrible divorces and even worse, the sudden and
untimely deaths of adult children as well as gnawing depression caused by
family members losing their fight with deadly addictions. At times like these the
baseball family shows why we consider ourselves to be as much a fraternity of
brothers as a sports league.
So, when guys like Charlie LaDuca offer me a word of encouragement and
when teammates of mine keep after me to get back on the field and when friends
and colleagues on the ball field bring care packages to my home and when I see
fellow teammates show up en masse to funerals in support of our teammates -
well, I am honored and thankful to be a part of this fellowship of both men and
women that we call the American Pastime.
I'll say one more thing. Thank you, Charlie, you have enriched my life.
We both share a membership in the fraternity of baseball brothers and I wish
you the best.
John Keazirian, Chicago