Baseball Vs. Cancer: One Coach’s Story

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Thank you to D1 Baseball for this powerful article about USF Baseball Head Coach Billy Mohl and his partnership with #VsCancer.

Billy Mohl played and coached at Tulane, then served as pitching coach at Illinois State and South Florida before taking over as head coach at USF in 2018. Along the way he has worked tirelessly for Vs. Cancer, and now serves as one of the Baseball Vs. Cancer Ambassadors, a group that includes coaches from across the country. His connection to the Vs. Cancer cause is particularly personal, and he shares his story with you in hopes that more coaches and teams will join the fight.

I was at lunch with the staff and players at Illinois State on a Tuesday, when my wife called me and said, “I have two weeks left to live.”

We were in Miami to play the Hurricanes that night. Mark Kingston, our head coach, arranged a flight for me back to Columbus, Ohio, where my wife Sarah was getting treatment at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University. I spent day and night next to her. All around us were patients who were also battling cancer. The experience opened my eyes to how many lives cancer affects. My wife went into hospice and died on March 25, 2013. She was 28.

I promised Sarah that I would never stop raising money for cancer research. I had already worked with Vs. Cancer at Illinois State, and its founder Chase Jones is a longtime friend, but we redoubled our efforts, and I have continued to make it a priority since coming to South Florida.

We have made huge strides. But we still have a lot of work to do, and you can help.

I met Chase working Tulane baseball camps for Rick Jones. I played for Coach Jones and then was on his staff, and I worked his camps every summer beginning with my freshman year in 2003. Coach Jones’ brother Buddy and his two kids, Chase and Jacob, came down and worked camp with us, and I got to know them well. In 2006 Chase was preparing to head to the University of North Carolina and serve as a bullpen catcher for the baseball team. I can remember taking Chase down to the Hack Shack and throwing him bullpens so he could get some practice time before arriving in Chapel Hill. He was excited for the opportunity to be a part of one of the top programs in the country, and I was ecstatic for him.

Not too long into the fall, Coach Jones called me into his office and told me devastating news about Chase. He had started having awful headaches when he got to school, and doctors discovered that Chase had a cancerous brain tumor. My stomach dropped. No one close to me had ever been diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated. I kept in touch with Chase as he went through the fight of his life, and thanks to his wonderful doctors and the man upstairs, he won.

Chase’s cancer was classified as a childhood or pediatric brain tumor, so he decided to raise money to help other children affected by cancer. In the first year he partnered with St. Baldrick’s and created “Base Bald.” By then I was Kingston’s pitching coach at Illinois State, and when Chase called and asked if our team would be willing to participate, I told him without hesitation, “Absolutely.”

The coaches and players pitched in to raise money, and we worked throughout the spring. At the end of the season, the entire team met in Horton Field house and we all shaved our heads for the cause. The team and staff were 100 percent behind the cause.

That’s when cancer struck even closer to home. In August 2012, a visit to the doctor for Sarah eventually led to a diagnosis of large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the cervix. I remember receiving the phone call while I was at home and she was at work. It hit me straight between the eyes. I remember calling my mother and telling her how scared I was, and thinking about raising our two-year-old son Hunter by myself. Eventually the fear faded and the fight began. My wife battled hard for seven months.

Of all the ways I have tried to honor her memory, raising money through what is now called Vs. Cancer has been the most significant, in large part thanks to Chase and his platform. It has been amazing to see the growth of Vs. Cancer and the number of lives it has impacted.

Vs. Cancer makes it easy for you and your staff and players to get involved and make a meaningful difference. They do all the hard work; all you need to do is commit and share your enthusiasm with your staff and players.

We have been involved with Vs. Cancer since the beginning, and our teams have raised almost $70,000. One of the things I like the most is that half of the money we raise goes to cancer research, and the other half goes to a local hospital to create a better quality of life for those children battling cancer. And it’s so special when our players can go into a children’s cancer center, visit with the kids, and see that they made a difference in their lives.

That’s where you come in. More than 40 Division I baseball programs do Vs. Cancer fundraisers each year, but we need more. The money you raise is funding cures and changing lives. If three new coaches come on board, that can pay for another clinical trial to develop a new treatment.

We as college coaches have an incredible platform to make a difference in people’s lives. I challenge each of you to consider joining Vs. Cancer. The commitment is minimal, but the results are life changing. Make a difference today!

Just click here to provide your contact information to Vs. Cancer, and a local campaign manager will reach out to you and handle all the details. Thank you!

Article originally published by D1 Baseball in 2020.