Stepping up to the plate for a cause

We’ve all been impacted by cancer in one way or another. My first experience came in 2015 when a friend and fellow teammate on the Corona del Sol volleyball program was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia before his senior year. On my initial visit to open gyms as a freshman, Ridge Vanderbur was the first one to introduce himself. I played alongside him leading up to tryouts. I even saw him daily during lunch period. I wasn’t on varsity with Ridge, but I knew the type of person he was and why he was loved not only within the volleyball program but throughout campus.

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Aztecs baseball coach David Webb recalled his own grandmother, who he said was the first in his life to succumb to the disease. One of his more recent interactions was a 21-year-old former North Carolina baseball recruit, Chase Jones.

“I met (Chase) back in North Carolina when I worked for USA baseball. He was on his way to play for UNC, a big-time program, and he found out he had cancer—he was only 17. So, Chase actually went into a children’s ward…he saw all these little kids with cancer. He ended up beating the disease, but he knew lot of kids passed away from it while he was there and, it just broke his heart. So, when he was finished with treatment but couldn’t play baseball again because of all the chemo, he started a foundation called Vs Cancer.

Inspired by Jones’ journey and coinciding with Ridge’s battle, the baseball program decided to give up something baseball players cherish most—their hair.

With a goal of $7,000 in mind, the baseball team stepped up to the plate (literally) and shaved their heads to donate. The movement was the first of its kind and has since grown and become a staple of the Aztec community.

“We were the first high school in the country to ever do it,” Webb said. “And then a bunch of big-time college programs like Vanderbilt, North Carolina and all these other big programs did it.” While the players’ hair is no longer donated, the program and its players remain active in charity. Yet, every year on home plate, full heads of hair are buzzed, and players sign cards with the names of those they are representing. Senior and varsity catcher Jack Trimble participates in honor of his grandpa on his mother’s side who had both lung and colon cancer.

Jack Trrimble

“It’s great for all of our players to get into and go about as a team,” he said. “You’re walking around school and see your teammate with a bald head, and everyone knows we’re part of something bigger than just baseball.” Junior outfielder and second baseman Tanner Douglass is representing the late country artist Toby Keith, his own aunt Berta and his grandfather.

Tanner Douglass

He said the experience helps the team bond and provides a sense of selflessness that is needed during an often grueling season. “Literally straight into the dugout with your teammates, not caring about yourself, putting others in front of you and putting the team in front of you.”

Trimble and Douglass have shaved their heads in years past, but Webb says for some, it can be intimidating.

“It’s paranoia for some of them at first,” he said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘you wake up in the morning you don’t have anything, you know, all your hair gel products and stuff don’t cost anything anymore. No shampoo and conditioner, those bills go down. And then you can head out and go to school. You can sleep in a little bit more,’ but you get used to it. So for many of them, their hair grows back really quick and they kind of realize it’s not that big a deal. It’s a small price to pay.” It’s a small price to pay that goes a long way, but it’s not only for a cause, but a tone for the Aztec baseball program.



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