Sports heroes rally around radio caller “Mark from Gastonia” after cancer diagnosis

Sports heroes rally around radio caller “Mark from Gastonia” after cancer diagnosis

GASTONIA, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – The sports talk radio caller who rose to local fame as “Mark from Gastonia” is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, weeks after being diagnosed with Stage 4 stomach cancer.

Mark Baker asked for prayers on X (formerly known as Twitter) Friday morning, saying chemotherapy is not an option because his heart function is at ten percent due to a heart defect he’s had since birth.

Baker aka MFG says he’s never dwelled on death, living each day to the fullest.

<em>Queen City News</em>
Queen City News

“If it happens, it happens, I lived how I want to live. Didn’t nobody tell me how to do it, I did it my way,” he told Queen City News on March 18.

Sports talk radio is usually a time-out from everyday problems. Lately, Mac and Bone of WFNZ have circled the wagons for their frequent caller.

“He is an underdog story at life that we haven’t seen around here,” said Travis “Bone” Hancock. “And he’s just a loveable dude that’s got the biggest heart.”

He’s approached life with a simple mantra.

“I wanted to make people happy. Whatever I could do to put a smile on people’s faces,” Baker says.

Recently, the community has given him plenty of reasons to smile. He’s been flooded with gifts and jerseys from just about every local franchise including the Panthers, Hornets, and Knights just to name a few. The gear includes MFG on the back, and the number 23, in honor of his hero Michael Jordan.

<em>Queen City News</em>
Queen City News
<em>Queen City News</em>
Queen City News

“I can’t believe that I got a jersey like this,” Mark says, saying he planned to frame them one day.

His mom Elizabeth says Mark’s always been a survivor, facing heart issues and most recently cancer. When her son was hospitalized for three weeks last month, she once again feared the possibility of losing Mark.

“He probably doesn’t know any of this, but I had a funeral planned,” Elizabeth said. “The doctors said he probably wouldn’t be able to handle any of this.”

Through the health crisis, his radio family responded.

“We’re trying to raise money for his bills and his family, so we’re all on this journey together,” Hancock said on the air.

But beyond the fundraising support, Hancock asked sports heroes to help uplift Mark with video messages.

The videos came in by the dozens, from former Hornets like Larry Johnson and retired Panthers Luke Kuechly and Jonathan Stewart.

Broadcasters Dan Orlovsky and Tim Brando touched base. So did former Carolina stars Danny Green and Leaky Black.

“Just wanted you to know, a lot of people care about you,” Stewart said to the delight of MFG.

As a diehard Carolina fan, a message from a coaching icon brought him to tears.

You’ve got a lot of friends that care about you, stay after it each and every day,” said former UNC coach Roy Williams. “And again, this is Roy Williams from Chapel Hill saying hello to Mark from Gastonia.”

“Smile every time I see it, ha-ha!” MFG said.

“He’s like, ‘I want you to know, those videos… don’t wear yourself out,’” Hancock says. “And he goes, ‘But they’re keeping me alive though!’”

Mark’s whole life has been a battle. Because of his heart condition, doctors initially feared he would only live to be six months old. Mark’s mindset has always been to keep going and keep fighting.

“I just always wanted to be famous, I didn’t care how,” he says.

<em>Queen City News</em>
Queen City News
<em>Queen City News</em>
Queen City News

Over the years, the hot sports takes and crazy costumes made him a sensation.

“Mom never believed me, I don’t think, that I was getting kind of popular,” said Baker.

“We’ve just gone with all his shenanigans, ha-ha, and put up with him,” Elizabeth says with a smile.

“I love to have fun!” Mark added.

Days after being discharged from the hospital last month, MFG called into the Mac and Bone show.

“There is no one else like you in this world, you are original gold,” Chris “Mac” McClain told him during the show.

FUNDRAISER: Help “Mark from Gastonia” here

What listeners couldn’t see was how much the show of appreciation meant to Mark. He beamed with pride as the hosts showed their admiration for him.

“Everything you did man, it made people smile, it made people laugh,” McClain said.

“Because it’s been so long since I called, it just hit me hard,” MFG said of the phone call.

“We didn’t know we’d ever have those moments again, and we don’t know how many we’re going to get and it’s sad, but we’re just trying to cherish him,” McClain says.

Later that week, Baker visited the studio in person and called in to talk about March Madness.

“The legend himself, Mark from Gastonia!” said “Mac” in the WFNZ studio.

No matter where you’re from, a support system means the world.

“If you have a connection with the audience, you can do some pretty magical things here,” said Hancock.

“Especially right now, with not just our connection to the audience, but the audience has a connection to fellow audience members,” McClain says.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to Queen City News.