Resilient. That would be the one adjective I would pick to describe the 2010 Cincinnati Reds. Sure, they were just swept by the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies.
But in the regular season, like a boxer who won’t quit no matter how many times he’s been hit in the mouth, the Reds picked their mouth piece off the floor and put their fists back up.
Start off the season 5-8? Finish May in first place.
Swept by the last-place Seattle Mariners? Take three from the Oakland Athletics in consecutive series.
Drop four heartbreakers to the Phillies right before the All-Star break? Win four out of five to start the season’s second half.
Embarrassed by the St. Louis Cardinals in August? Rip off eight wins in their next nine games.
The man who knows best about resiliency? Not owner Bob Castellini or general manager Walt Jocketty. Not even NL MVP Joey Votto.
Doc Rodgers. Who? Darrell “Doc” Rodgers is a
former minor-league baseball player and coach. He has spent time in the front offices of the Reds, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles.
He is a real estate agent in Cincinnati and is the weekend host of “Extra Innings,” the Reds postgame radio show on 700 WLW-AM.
In May, he began to go through weeks with harsh headaches. After coming home from WLW-AM on May 23, his left knee, foot and arm went numb.
Little did he know that life had thrown him the ultimate curveball.
On June 20, Father’s Day, Rodgers announced to his audience that he had stage-four lung cancer.
While interning at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati this summer, I was afforded many great opportunities. I ran into Doc two separate times before he appeared on the station’s Sunday night sports talk show.
Joyful, charming, full of life. I could think of tens of other adjectives to describe a man with such a sunny disposition, the opposite of what one would expect of a man with lung and brain tumors.
“It’s kind of like having kids (Doc has two). You don’t give them a choice sometimes,” Rodgers said. “A negative attitude is not an option.”
There have been no real adjustments to his life.
“I’m doing what I was doing before,” he said.
Luckily, chemotherapy has produced few side effects so far, although his hair has begun to fall out.
“That’s kind of a benefit,” joked the already thin-haired 47-year-old.
The love the community has shown him has been “kind of embarrassing.” He has received a few thousand e-mails, many of which he hasn’t had time to read yet.
“Almost every other caller ends by saying they’re wishing and praying for me,” Rodgers said. “I never could have imagined the support … I had no idea it would be like this.”
Doc and the Reds are mirror
images of each another. Doc believes Reds manager Dusty Baker, who is a prostate cancer survivor, was largely responsible for the team’s surprising success this season.
“It all starts with Dusty. He’s the ultimate optimist. Actions speak louder than words, and you can tell he’s got the ultimate support of the players,” Rodgers said. “They go out and play and don’t put pressure on themselves.”
Doc visited the Reds clubhouse recently, and the two talked about the bond they share. Dusty’s message was clear.
“It was Dusty being Dusty. He said attitude is how you get through it,” Rodgers said. “You get way more out of a positive attitude, so you might as well have one.”
The Reds’ magical season might be over, but Doc’s fight for his life is far from finished. Things are looking up, as a recent CAT scan showed his lung tumor has shrunk by 30 percent.
Nevertheless, he’ll continue to battle cancer the only way he knows, with a charming smile and the heart of a lion.