NAPPANEE – There is a universal agreement that cancer pretty much sucks. Nearly everyone has been affected by its grip, cut lives short and left an indelible void in so many families of all backgrounds, financial status’ and situations.
The NorthWood baseball family and its extensions dealt with a cancer loss this February when the Warren twins, Hunter and Sawyer, lost their sister-in-law after she succumbed to mesothelioma. In response, the Warrens, along with the Panther baseball coaching staff wanted to make a statement that cancer will be defeated.
Head coach AJ Risedorph hoped to find an avenue for the team to respond, and wanted to keep in the baseball theme. In doing so, Risedorph reached out to the Jason Motte Foundation (JMF), and is hoping to hit the proverbial home run in finding a little comfort for the Warrens but to also create an outreach for his program to give back.
“With what happened with the Warren family, and seemingly more and more people in the baseball community, we wanted to do something to bring attention to cancer,” Risedorph said. “We saw that Motte had a foundation, and with it attached to Major League Baseball, we felt like that was a good draw. (JMF) doesn’t discriminate to just one cancer, they reach out to all types. That was the best bet for our needs and for our platform.”
The Jason Motte Foundation is named for its founder, Jason Motte, who is a professional baseball player, pitching as recently as last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, also pitching with the Chicago Cubs in 2015. Motte began the foundation in 2012 when Motte’s wife, Caitlin, had a grandfather as a cancer patient in Memphis. The foundation started in 2013 as a way to help not only her grandfather, but patients from around the country. It grew quickly enough that all 30 Major League Baseball clubhouses adopted roles in JMF. This season, all 30 teams have a team representative, the Cubs with both Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester – each cancer survivors in their own right – the White Sox with Hector Santiago and another cancer survivor, Jameson Taillon, heads up Pittsburgh’s drive.
Motte’s efforts have raised over a million dollars in just five years, giving back to over 60 different charities across the country and hosting numerous events and galas to raise money and awareness.
“Cancer affects everybody, it doesn’t matter whether you are a pro ball player, a high schooler, college, minor leaguer or whatever. Cancer has affected a lot of people,” Motte said. “We have minor league teams, high schools, colleges wanting to reach out to get on board and have a K Cancer Day and do stuff like that, it’s pretty cool. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting out there and helping those in the fight. Whether it’s people reaching out to us or doing stuff on their own, it’s about getting out and helping others. It’s just cool that people are wanting to get out there and do that.”
The Panthers jumped on board with the foundation as a way to raise funds to donate to JMF, but also to give the players a way to serve a higher purpose. On May 11, NorthWood will host Elkhart Memorial in a Northern Lakes Conference game, which is dubbed as their ‘K-Game.’ The team will host a few fundraiser opportunities at the game in addition to what they are already doing by taking pledge donations for hits and strikeouts during the season. Both the varsity and JV will host its own initiatives, as Risedorph noted was a little intra-squad friendly, but a chance for the entire program to get involved.
“We are using the Motte platform and what it stands for as our outreach,” Risedorph said. “It draws to what the kids want to do. Having a Major League player attached to our program means something to the kids, and shows there are bigger things in life than just baseball.”
Anyone interested in donating to the effort are asked to contact Risedorph at [email protected], call (574) 527-6833 or attend the game on May 11.
“(NorthWood) reaching out and wanting to work with us and do stuff with us is a very similar way to what we wanted to do,” Motte said. “To help others who were going through a very similar thing. Help those who are fighting. The patients, their families, their friends, their communities. That’s why we do what we do. Hearing this story, it sounds like they are trying to do the same thing. That’s to get out there and help those who are in the fight.”