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Zach Farmer remembered for relentless positivity in the face of illness

Zach Farmer's No. 34 is written on the mound at Bill Davis Stadium after his passing on Aug. 4, 2015. Credit: Ryan Cooper / Sports Editor

Zach Farmer’s No. 34 is written on the mound at Bill Davis Stadium after his passing on Aug. 4, 2015.
Credit: Ryan Cooper / Sports Editor

Stay strong, don’t give up and keep fighting.

Those are the words Zach Farmer lived by throughout his battle with cancer; and although the former Ohio State pitcher may have lost his battle with acute myeloid leukemia, he is still inspiring his teammates and coaches to live their lives to the fullest.

OSU baseball coach Greg Beals said that Farmer’s legacy will live on well past his 21 years of life.

“We learned a lot from Zach and his positive outlook, just that attitude that he was going to make it all good, was absolutely one of his strongest characteristics, no doubt,” Beals said Tuesday afternoon. Farmer passed away earlier that morning.

OSU held a memorial service in honor of Farmer’s life at Bill Davis Stadium, where Farmer’s No. 34 was added to the pitcher’s mound in tribute. Beals said he knows Farmer will be watching over his former team.

“We’re certainly going to have a guardian angel,” Beals said. “He’ll be there for our pitchers and our whole team. Today, I just felt it was proper to put his number on the mound. We’re going to light this stadium up tonight and keep the lights on tonight, so he can look down on us.”

Beals said that Farmer’s fight has brought the team closer, reminding them to hold every day precious.

“We talk about brotherhood,” Beals said. “It’s not an opportunity we’re certainly looking for, but it does present an opportunity for that brotherhood to strengthen and grow and that’s what Zach would want, no doubt about it. Not for it to benefit us as a team, but to benefit each of us as individuals, to take advantage of our opportunities, not to take things for granted, that life is precious and we need to attack every day like Zach did.”

Adam Niemeyer, a rising redshirt sophomore pitcher for the Buckeyes, said he and his teammates are supporting each other through this tough time.

“We’re all just there for each other, helping each other through it, talking to each other and just really praying for Zach’s family because that’s the most important thing right now,” Niemeyer said.

Niemeyer said the last time he saw Farmer was when a group of players visited Farmer at his family’s home last week in Piketon, Ohio.

“We just hung out with him,” Niemeyer said. ”It was actually during the Hall of Fame induction ceremony when Randy Johnson gave him a shout out. It was pretty cool to be there with him watching that stuff all happen, and we just hung out like it was a normal day — it was a good day.”

Then-freshman pitcher Zach Farmer throws a pitch against Toledo on April 2, 2014. Farmer passed away on Tuesday from a second bout of leukemia. Credit: Lantern file photo

Then-freshman pitcher Zach Farmer throws a pitch against Toledo on April 2, 2014. Farmer passed away on Tuesday from a second bout of leukemia.
Credit: Lantern file photo

Farmer was considered a professional prospect before arriving to OSU, but Niemeyer said his attitude didn’t give off the slightest bit of arrogance.

“Zach was a great kid,” Niemeyer said. “Great teammate, very unselfish person. He was a very touted recruit out of high school, had the opportunity to get drafted out of high school, but just knowing Zach, you never would’ve known that just from talking to him. He was a very humble kid, good kid, a great teammate, and we’re going to miss him.”

In Farmer’s one season at OSU, he compiled a 6-4 record with a 3.28 ERA before being diagnosed with leukemia. Farmer fought hard and initially thought he had beaten the illness — announcing he was cancer free just a couple of months after the diagnosis — but his victory was short-lived as the cancer returned after his body rejected the bone-marrow transplant — a condition known as graft-versus-host disease.

Farmer opted to go through a second chemotherapy treatment — which was not compatible with the treatment for GVHD — to try to fight off the cancer, but it was too late, as his lungs began to fail him.

Before he passed, Farmer married his girlfriend of four years, Kelsie Mays, who took his last name after marriage. They had their reception in the gymnasium of Farmer’s former school —  Piketon High School — on July 19, just days after he learned of his fatal diagnosis.

His former teammate Niemeyer said Farmer’s life and death will provide extra motivation for the Buckeyes this upcoming season.

“It’s definitely going to be something to play for, it’s always going to be on our minds,” Niemeyer said. “You can never really take anything for granted. It really puts things into perspective, and it will give us something to play for this spring.”

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