How Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley beat cancer

MLB columnist
Yahoo Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Tony Beasley has a wife and a son and a job in the game, as third-base coach for the Texas Rangers. He is 50 years old. He missed last season because he had rectal cancer, a year spent in the mostly awful ways cancer victims spend them.

He has called that time “an opportunity,” a curious perspective. Cancer has many names. Not often that.

He was in Anaheim on Tuesday afternoon. Smallish, with a warm smile and accepting eyes, Beasley said he was happy to explain. That it was simple, really.

“Sometimes,” he said, “you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. But, sometimes, in the middle of nowhere, you find yourself.”

The middle of nowhere is a place of chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries. Of, perhaps, fear. Of hope. He had Stacy, his wife, to provide for. His boy, Tony Jr., too. He thought about Tony growing up, finding his passion, marrying. He could not leave them.

“I just said, ‘Today is going to be a good day,’” he said. “All of us have one day. That’s today. So live that day. Find the joy in it.”

He found reasons to smile on those days. A spiritual man who’d taught his son about the world, conducting himself in it, about rising to a challenge and being a good man and believing in the good out there, Beasley came to understand today — every day — was the day to walk that walk.

Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley is back with the team after beating cancer. (AP Images)
Rangers third-base coach Tony Beasley is back with the team after beating cancer. (AP Images)

“The opportunity was to be who I said I was,” he said. “We profess things in our lives. Not often do we get the opportunity to live out the things we spoke. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had a choice. I chose the opportunity to challenge me to be truly what I said I was. To be accountable. To live through it.”

He is back at work at third base, hitting fungoes, throwing batting practice, counseling young men. His is an anonymous profession except in the case of a poor decision. Now, in the game and particularly in Arlington, he is known as the man of uncommon grace, the man who’d lived what so many have lived, and lived it about as well as one can.

So I asked him what he knows today that the rest of us don’t, that he didn’t either a year ago.

“I don’t know what I know that you don’t,” he said, “except there are going to be tough times. If you live long enough, there’ll be some sort of tough times we don’t expect. I guess we’re not exempt. None of us are exempt. And then we learn who we are.”

*** The folks in Boston need to stow their rabbit ears.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter makes one sideways observation about the world as he sees it — “Everybody in the league’s got a flu issue. … Our guys have done a good job not broadcasting it to the world.” — and you’d think he’d mooned the Paul Revere statue. Or, for that matter, the fallen, over-heated, soup-sipping statues of Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland and the rest.

A “jab,” it was called. A “cheap shot.” On and on.

It’s just Buck. It’s just words. Words that have no bearing on who plays or who wins or who respects whom. Everybody’s sick. We get it.

Let’s move along.

*** Two summers ago, a spike in positive tests of Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid favored by bodybuilders, Ben Johnson and, reportedly, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds, became a concern to MLB. Most of those positives came out of the Dominican Republic.

Over three days last week, 13 minor leaguers were suspended for violating the drug program, five for Stanozolol, all five involving players in or from the Dominican. And it is again causing MLB officials to wonder from where players are acquiring the drug and why they would take a substance that exists for so long in their systems and is so easily identifiable.

*** WHAT ELSE:

Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis, who endured a setback in his testicular cancer recovery and began chemotherapy treatment March 20, and his wife, Kristina, recently had a baby, their first. Everliegh Rae was born two weeks ago.

On one hand, the Giants’ bullpen, which was going to be fixed, has an ERA of 5.85. On the other, it had thrown very few innings (20 in eight games), which, given the first part, is good.

Further updating the Giants, their left fielders are 2 for 32 (Chris Marrero 1 for 15, Jarrett Parker 1 for 10, Aaron Hill 0 for 5, Gorkys Hernandez 0 for 2). You knew that. They reportedly signed Melvin Upton to a minor-league deal, you know, in case. You knew that. I picked them to go to the World Series. You probably didn’t know that.

Last week we opined on the case of A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman, whose first start, against the Angels, saw him throw three off-speed pitches out of 104. Well, five days later, against the Rangers, he threw 85 pitches, none of them off-speed. That’s 189 pitches, all but three of them sinkers, cutters and four-seamers. He’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA.

Nearly two full trips through their rotation, the Diamondbacks’ rotation has a 3.04 ERA, behind only the Cubs and Mets in the National League. The trick is in maintaining that. Offensively over the first 10 days, no one scored more runs. All fine. The soft spot, again, and if you’re looking for one, will probably be on defense.

INCOMING:

Jordan Zimmermann on Thursday against the Twins. The Tigers right-hander, hired for $110 million over five years last winter, made 18 starts, posted a near-5 ERA and suffered through a neck strain in his first season. If you were looking for a reason the Tigers finished eight games behind the Indians in the NL Central and 2 ½ behind the wild-card winners, you could do worse than start there.

Well, a healthy Zimmermann allowed a run over six innings to the Red Sox on Saturday, when he featured more curveballs and changeups and fewer sliders. If the aging Tigers are going to make a run at the Indians, and if the rotation — Justin Verlander, Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer, Matt Boyd and Zimmermann — is going to help hide what appears to be another ratty bullpen — then Zimmermann is going to have to be that guy again. One note of caution: Zimmermann finished last April 5-0 with an 0.55 ERA.

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