CHAPEL HILL There are games, and then there are “must wins.”
Chapel Hill’s baseball game this week against Cedar Ridge is a “must win,” not just because it’s a Big Eight Conference game, but it’s also one the Tigers feel they must win because it’s “Vs. Cancer.”
Proceeds from the Chapel Hill-Cedar Ridge baseball game will be donated to the Vs. Cancer Foundation. The game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a ceremonial first-pitch.
“Every game is important, no matter who we’re playing,” Chapel Hill coach Lee Land said. “But for a night like this (Tuesday), there’s something a lot larger at stake than just the game of baseball. It’s for cancer research.
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“Yeah, we’ve got to win a baseball game, but this is really about raising money for a good cause.”
The Vs. Cancer Foundation, the brainchild of former University of North Carolina catcher Chase Jones, has drawn support from many area baseball teams since its inception in 2012.
Jones was a freshman Tar Heel when he was diagnosed in 2006 with Stage 4 brain cancer. After months of successful surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, Jones and his teammates began raising funds for cancer research, initially with his “Base Bald for a Cure” campaign. Partnering with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Jones and his teammates raised more than $400,000 for childhood cancer research.
After playing 2007-2011 for UNC, Jones created the Vs. Cancer Foundation.
In the years since the St. Baldrick’s and Vs. Cancer campaigns began, the image of entire teams shaving their heads – both as a sign of solidarity with cancer victims and as a fund-raising tool for contributions – has become an iconic image for baseball.
In 2012, the Chapel Hill baseball players shaved their heads and collected pledges from friends and family for a Baldrick event.
Last year, Chapel Hill catcher Garrett Liebe approached Coach Land and suggested the Tigers do it again. As a member of the Carolina Blue Sox, Liebe had come to know Jones when the club team took part in their own St. Baldrick’s game.
“I thought it would good to do this again, especially since I saw some people I knew personally benefited from this,” Liebe said. “It’s tough to see the terrible things they go though. We want to raise some awareness about this and help put an end to cancer.”
When Land first heard Liebe’s proposal, he immediately endorsed it.
Land went out and got Brendan Turk of Jersey Mike’s subs to donate sandwiches for Tuesday’s concessions sales. Great Clips got on board by agreeing to shave the coaches’ and players’ heads during a pre-game meeting on Monday.
With a nod to the “Think Pink” campaigns that have become associated with fighting cancer, the Tigers also arranged to wear special pink-and-black game shirts and socks.
“I really haven’t done that much,” Land insisted. “The kids have been doing it all and raising donations on their own. Garrett’s really coordinating everything, and I tip my hat to them.”
Heading into this weekend, the Chapel Hill players had raised almost $900 in pledges and donations, with more than half of that being raised by Liebe.
Chapel Hill pitcher and infielder Andrew Miller was part of the 2012 CHHS team that played the school’s first St. Baldrick’s game. Shaving his head again doesn’t faze him in the least.
“The pros of it far outweigh any cons,” Miller said, noting he lost a grandfather to lung cancer.
“It’s really good to be able to show our support for the fight against cancer. It’s a great cause, and I’m excited to be part of it.”
To donate to the Chapel Hill baseball team’s fight “Vs. Cancer,” go online to https://team.vs-cancer.org/fundraise/team?ftid=43520.
Ran date: 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, at Chapel Hill