Jason Motte: Leading by example
Cardinals pitcher inspired by young boy's fight with cancer
When the World Series began in Boston on Oct. 23, Jason Motte of the St. Louis Cardinals, though not on the roster due to injury, was in the dugout supporting his team. If you looked closely at his wrist, you would have noticed a "Team Brandt" bracelet he wears as a daily reminder of Brandt Ballenger, a young boy who had a profound impact on his life.
In one point of our lives we have all been affected by cancer. Whether it is a relative or a family friend, cancer has touched each one of us.
In 2011, a day after the Cardinals won the World Series, Brandt was diagnosed with Wilms' Tumor, a form of pediatric kidney cancer. After his diagnosis, he underwent several surgical procedures, more than a year of chemotherapy, six months of anticoagulant therapy for a blood clot, two rounds of radiation treatment and numerous blood and platelet transfusions, in addition to his regular doctor appointments.
When Brandt's condition worsened, the Make-A-Wish Foundation was forced to move up a preplanned meeting with his favorite team, the Cardinals. And it was during this visit that Brandt was able to connect with Motte. The meeting changed both of them.
"He made a huge impact on my life," Motte said during the Players Trust's monthly Action Team teleconference. "Just watching him go through what he went through really made me see that this whole baseball thing is important, but man there are some way bigger things in life than winning or losing a baseball game."
After forming a relationship with Brandt, Motte challenged himself to raise awareness for pediatric cancer. He became determined to create an "awareness day" at the ballpark.
"I got a whole bunch of no's, and it would have been easy to just give up, but watching the persistence of this little boy and the way he was fighting this disease made me want to push harder," Jason said.
On Sept. 23, Motte's own wish came true as the Cardinals hosted their first "Strikeout Childhood Cancer" day. The team sold discounted $10 pavilion tickets, $3 of which went to the Jason Motte Foundation and then directly to organizations that support pediatric cancer research.
"We do it to show these kids and their families that they aren't alone. They aren't fighting this battle alone," Motte told the Action Team youth volunteers on their October conference call.
Sadly, Brandt didn't live to see the "Strikeout Childhood Cancer" day. He passed away two months before it. But he had left an enduring impression on Motte that will allow his spirit to carry on through the ballplayer's efforts.
Like many Major Leaguers, Motte is heavily involved with the Players Trust's Action Team national volunteer youth program.
He took part in the Action Team's October conference call, which also shined a spotlight on youth volunteers from West Ranch High School in California, who discussed their recent community service efforts, including working at a food pantry, participating in a toy drive with the U.S. Postal Service and working with the Special Olympics.
After sharing his touching story of Brandt and the inspiration the boy provided him, Motte commended Action Team members for their efforts thus far.
"Just keep doing what you're doing. I know I said it before, but what you guys are doing is really making an impact on peoples' lives. You guys are doing really great things and you've started at a young age, and that's awesome to see."
As the Cardinals embark on another exciting postseason of October baseball "with no script," Motte keeps Brandt in his thoughts.
"I don't do what I do for someone to give me a pat on the back," he said. "Baseball is what I do; it's not who I am."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.