Richi Sede gives his first base coach a fist bump after reaching base (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
Even though the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, the organization still found a way to maintain their long-standing tradition of honoring cancer survivors.
On Thursday, Oct. 1, the Corban College baseball squad played a intrasquad game — with half the team representing the Volcanoes by playing in retro Salem-Keizer jerseys — in front of a crowd of 250 people that was made up of many cancer survivors and those who are currently battling the disease.
“We knew it wasn’t going to look like it had in years past, but we figured that there was still a way to honor and recognize folks who have battled cancer and recognize their families as well,” Volcanoes CEO Mickey Walker said. “We felt like it has been a tradition we have had for almost 20 years, so we wanted to figure out a way to keep it going.”
Cancer survivors were able to request free tickets to the game, courtesy of Dr. Bud Pierce of Oregon Oncology Specialists.
“For most people, having cancer turns out to be a life-defining event. It has a way of taking things away from you and degrading your life, so to have this event that honors the patients and makes them feel special is really important,” Pierce said. “That is what this event has always been about, honoring the patients and inviting them in for a good show and a wonderful evening.”
Because of coronavirus restrictions, the Volcanoes could only have 250 socially distanced fans in attendance. But according to Walker, fans were incredibly appreciative and excited to attend a ballgame once again.
“The response has been very positive. We had so many requests for tickets that we were out of available seats a couple of weeks after we announced that this was happening,” Walker said.
Dozens of fans that couldn’t be in attendance submitted photos of themselves to be used as cardboard cutouts in the stadium. And with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, each of the bases were pink and all three umpires wore pink shirts.
While the game ended up being a pitching dual for the majority of the contest, the makeshift Volcanoes scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning and went onto win the game 5-0.
With runners on first and second and nobody out, Reese Fawley laced an RBI-double to the left center field gap to put the Volcanoes up 1-0. After Corban pitcher Mason Shaw issued a free pass to load the bases, Maxwell Jeffrey smoked a base-clearing triple down the line in right field. Jeffery ended up stealing home moments later to extend the Volcanoes lead to 5-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, each audience member stood up and held up a sign to honor loved ones that have been impact by cancer while the song ‘I Can Only Imagine’ played over the speakers.
“Being able to take in that moment in the bottom of the fifth was a really cool. I think it’s something our guys will remember for awhile,” Corban head coach Derek Legg said.
While the Volcanoes are hoping to host their usual Cancer Awareness Weekend next season, the organization is thankful they got the opportunity this year to honor those who have been impacted by this terrible disease.
“We really appreciate Coach Legg and the coaching staff and all the players for coming out and putting on a good show for the fans. It was nice to see that people were so eager to come out and watch some baseball,” Walker said.