A captain with inspiration-Le Moyne baseball star battles cancer
Itâ??s the end of Pat Wieseâ??s junior year, heâ??s leading the Le Moyne baseball team into the Northeast-10 Championships. An outfielder, he leads the team in hitting, runs, stolen bases and on-base percentage, but instead of feeling like his usual dominant self, his knee is in â??throbbing painâ??.
Wiese, a CBA graduate, has played through hamstring and quad injuries throughout his career, but this is different. His right knee throbs during warm-ups, but when his teammates and coaches ask if heâ??s okay, he says heâ??s fine.
â??It was probably that fifteen to twenty minutes of warm up where it would just be agonizing pain,â?? Wiese says. â??I couldn't even run. I was almost in tears warming up and everyone saw that and they asked, â??Are you going to be ok?â?? I said I'll be fine, just give me 30 minutes I'll be readyâ?¦and during game time I was fine.â??
He finishes the season with a .333 average, 59 hits, 39 runs, 27 stolen bases and a .415 on-base percentage, all of which leads the team.
The pain subsides immediately following the season, so Wiese prepares to play with his usual Summer League team the Vermont Mountaineers. In just his second week in Vermont, the pain returns, this time, despite playing through it, it doesnâ??t subside. In 21 games, Wiese bats .306, fifth on the team. Towards the end of the season, Wiese pulls his quad trying to steal second base, ending his summer season. Removed from the grind of the game, the pain leaves his knee once again.
At the end of the summer, he comes home to Syracuse and begins to prepare for his senior season as a captain for the Le Moyne College baseball team. As he works out harder and harder, the pain returns. Every step he takes, he feels pain shooting up and down his right leg.
â??This is when it finally just clicked in my head that I had to do something,â?? Wiese says. â??I was waking up in the middle of the night, I couldn't sleep. It was to the point where I was throwing pillowsâ?¦I was sitting up at night. It was one of the most miserable experiences ever.â??
Wieseâ??s father Michael is an Orthopedic Surgeon, so Pat, thinking he has something related to an ACL injury, asks his father for an MRI.
The same day Wiese gets the MRI, he sits in class at Le Moyne. His phone lights up, itâ??s his father. Confused at first, Wiese says his father never bothers him while heâ??s in class, so he knows something is wrong. Michael Wiese leaves a voicemail, so Pat calls him back. His voice cracking, Michael tells Pat he needs to get more MRIs and an X-ray. After class, Pat drives to his fatherâ??s office, Michael is waiting for him.
â??So I go up there, and he's outside, I see him tearing up a little bit, and right then and there I knew something was wrong. And so he says, â??You have a tumor in your right knee.â?? And right then and there, I didn't really know what to think. My first question was, â??Am I going be able to play baseball again?â?? And he said he doesn't know,â?? Wiese says.
The further tests revealed that Wiese was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, but the good news was that it was localized in his right knee. At that point, Wiese was told heâ??d need chemotherapy and a total knee replacement, resulting in a year of rehabilitation before he could walk again.
With the updated diagnosis, Wiese once again asked the question, â??Am I going to be able to play baseball again?â?? This time, the answer was no.
At that point, Wiese had to break the news to his team. His love of baseball stems from the camaraderie that lives in the dugout, both on and off the field. As the captain and leader at Le Moyne, his teammates lean on him. So for Wieseâ??s teammates, who had almost known him as indestructible, hearing their star say the word â??cancerâ?? was sobering.
â??I was really shocked,â?? Nate Reynolds, a fellow senior outfielder at Le Moyne, says. â??That was our captain; he's the heart of our team. And you don't know what to think at first because you think, how does this happen to someone who's such a good guy, such a good person, such a hard worker right before his senior year and its just one of those things that you really don't know how to handle.â??
Reynolds says he always knew when Wiese was injured, but his friend would never say a word. This time around though, Wiese told him itâ??s the â??most painful thing heâ??s ever experienced,â?? a powerful thought considering Wiese played through that same pain for months.
â??Our gifts get taken away from us. And that you know he might not be able to play baseball anymore. It kind of puts it in perspective for us,â?? Reynolds says.
In the days that followed, still dealing with the heartbreak of not being able to put on cleats, Wiese kept asking himself â??Why does this have to happen to me?â??
But one night, he had a change of heart. It was well after midnight, he was struggling to sleep and wrestling with the thought his baseball career might be over, when he had a revelation.
â??Then it kind of hit me,â?? he says. â??You know what, I'm actually kind of happy it did happen to me [rather] than anyone else in my family or anyone else I knew. I want to go through it, rather than seeing someone else close to my heart go through it. So, that was kind of the turning point, [I thought] it's time to attack it. It's done, nothing's going to change, I have bone cancer, and I'm going to do my best to attack it with a positive attitude and I'm going to beat this.â??
In the days and weeks that followed, Wiese was overwhelmed by the support he received from not only his friends, but from the rest of the Le Moyne Community as well. Volleyball, lacrosse and field hockey teams all started using the phrase â??Play for Pat.â?? During their â??fall ballâ?? session, Wieseâ??s teammates hung up a calendar in their locker room, listing important dates in his recovery, putting signs with Wiese's most powerful quotations on the walls.
â??For them to voice their opinion of me in a positive way has really shook my world,â?? Wiese says. â??Iâ??ve been grateful for every single person that Iâ??ve contacted and whoâ??s contacted me as well.â??
All of the support is giving Wiese more motivation and more inspiration in his rehabilitation. Ever since that night, heâ??s attacked his physical therapy like a 95 mile per hour fast ball right down the middle. With our CNY Central cameras rolling, Wiese found some more motivation when we visited one of his sessions. He did some grunting and grimacing, but showed how competitive he really is by surpassing goals on the exercise bike, at one point telling his physical therapist, â??I bet you didnâ??t think I would do that today.â?? (He did ask for some water immediately afterwards).
â??His physical therapy has exceeded expectations,â?? Reynolds says. â??And I feel like that's just who he's going to be. He's just going to, you know, you set the bar for him and he's just going to blow by it.â??
As the type of guy who will get mad after losing at a videogame, on the first day chemotherapy on October 28th, Wiese posted on Twitter @PatrickWiese_Day 1 of chemo- We won game 1 by a blow out! Time to get some rest for game 2 tmrw. Got studs in the field w/ me tmrw! Looks like another Wâ??
Using #fight, heâ??s now spreading inspiration not only to his friends and Le Moyne family, but for others diagnosed with cancer as well.
Told he would never play baseball again, Wiese holds out hope that he will take the field once again. As for this season, heâ??s going to help out the Le Moyne program in any way possible. In a way, heâ??s already helped his teammates, now serving as inspiration off the field.
â??Every single player said â??Thank you for showing me to play baseball the right way,â?? it kind of shook me. At the end that's what I'm going to remember most, and that's what people are going to remember most about me, is how I played the game I love,â?? Wiese says.
Wieseâ??s coach Scott Cassidy says his guys are motivated to win for Wiese, just like the rest of the Le Moyne campus. Logistically, Cassidy says itâ??s â??difficult if not impossibleâ?? to replace Wieseâ??s athletic and leadership impact on the field. He admits they had no idea who would lead team-stretching when Wiese was sidelined during the fall season. While he realizes Wiese canâ??t be there athletically, Cassidy hopes he can still contribute.
â??We want him in our dugout as quickly as we can to help the guys and get us through the year. He's going to be an extension of us this year, he's going to be that player/coach for our team to kind of be the liaison between the two and get [the guys] fired up. That's what we're looking for in the immediate future and if all goes well, maybe he finds himself back on the field playing again. You know Pat Wiese at 80% is better than a lot of players at 100% and we look forward to seeing that,â?? Cassidy says.
While Wiese continues to work towards getting back on the field someday, he says all of the support and the diagnosis itself have given him a great sense of perspective.
With that in mind, he has a message for everyone about their own, personal passions:
â??Everybody loves to do something,â?? Wiese says. â??I can't preach enough, just do it, because you never know, with a blink of an eye it could be taken away. Just like my situation, I was looking forward to going to practice at 3 p.m., then I got the call that I had Osteosarcoma and that I couldn't play again. I just want people to go about their every day life and just do it 110 percent, because you never know when something can be taken away from you. Because at the end of the day if that something is taken away from you, you can still smile because you know you gave it your all, and you have no regrets, and fortunately I can smile and I have no regrets of anything that I've done on the baseball field because I know I played every single day hard and how I wanted to play.â??