Twist of Fate

Twist of Fate

John Lester and Anthony Rizzo overcame cancer to win a World Series
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"Everything happens for a reason"; it is a popular and often questioned phrase. People tend to use it in the midst of challenging situations. I think it is human nature to try and find a bright light when we face difficult circumstances. Telling ourselves, that there is a purpose for the obstacle may give us the comfort we need to overcome it.

The Cubs’ World Series win may be a perfect representation of a time when some unfortunate things did happen for a reason. In 2007, with Theo Epstein as their General Manager, the Boston Red Sox drafted Anthony Rizzo. During 2008 he was playing single A ball in Greenville, SC when he and his family realized something wasn’t right. Although he was playing well, his legs had swollen to the point where he struggled to put his cleats on every day. Ultimately, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Rizzo came to Boston. He met with Epstein as well as the team’s manager, Terry Francona. On this visit, he also met his future teammate, John Lester. Lester knew how it felt to be a young athlete battling cancer. Two years earlier, when Lester was just 22, he was diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma. After fighting hard, he came back the next year and started the World Series-clinching game against Colorado.

Lester gave Rizzo a tour of the clubhouse, training room, and then they took some time to talk. Of course, like any father, Mr. Rizzo was full of questions. However, Lester advised the Rizzos to slow down; he gave Anthony advice such as not to let cancer control his life. When he felt up to it, he should do the things he loves. Lester told Rizzo to treat cancer like a competition; when talking about it, Lester says “It was like me going against a team.” Anthony Rizzo praises John Lester, "It was everything I needed to hear…He beat his cancer; I knew I could too."

Later that year Rizzo’s cancer went into remission. When asked about it today, Lester says “it was like gratification…like maybe I had something to do with it. There was a sense of relief too, because Anthony was going to get back to playing." I am not sure if either of them could have predicted the path Anthony’s baseball career would take him once he was back to playing, nor do I think they could have foreseen this magical season.

Maybe Lester and Rizzo had to cross paths under these difficult circumstances in 2008. Maybe it set the stage for greater things. Rizzo and Lester saw each other the following year at the 2009 spring training, but in 2010 Rizzo was traded to San Francisco. However, Epstein promised their paths would cross again too. When Rizzo made it to the majors in 2012, he was traded to Chicago. Interestingly, Theo Epstein, the new general manager for Chicago, finalized the trade. Epstein was telling the truth; their story wasn't over yet.

Two years later Anthony Rizzo made the 2014 All-star game and saw John Lester for the first time in five years. Lester had developed into the Red Sox Ace, and Rizzo knew that he would be a free agent at the end of the year. Rizzo wasn’t sure if Lester would remember him, but of course, he did. They talked for a few minutes, and Rizzo did his best to convince Lester to come to Chicago. When asked about it now, Lester says “Anthony's a big part of why I came over here...What we shared added the intrigue to it, knowing he wasn't just talking to me like, 'Hey, we would really like to have you as a pitcher.' It was other things-deeper things."

Both Lester and Rizzo played key roles in Chicago's World Series win. Would they have both ended up in Chicago if it weren’t for their medical obstacles? Could the Cubs have done it without them? We will never know the answer to those questions. People may argue this multifaceted story is just a big coincidence. However, I think greater forces were at work. People move in and out of our lives, some with a momentary encounter; others play a more significant role for a longer period. Each time we interact with those around us, we have the opportunity to learn deeper lessons and make a choice that each life experience happens for a reason.

Cover Image Credit: (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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As A Cardinals Fan, I Let Albert Pujols Go A LONG Time Ago

They say time heals all wounds, but is that the case with St. Louis Cardinals fans and Albert Pujols?

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It's hard to properly encapsulate what Albert Pujols meant to the city of St. Louis. He's without a doubt in my mind, statistically, one of the greatest Cardinals players of all time right up there with names like Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, and Stan Musial. His list of accolades in a Cardinals uniform is borderline unbelievable: Rookie of the year in 2001, 9x All-Star (8 consecutive from 2003-2010), 3x MVP, 6x Silver Slugger and 2x Gold Glove winner. Not to mention, he was an integral piece of two World Series victories in 2006 and 2011. The recipe was right there to continue his career as a Cardinal and retire an immortalized legend, but things somehow took a turn for the worst after the 2011 World Series.

Pujols was up for free agency in 2012, and even though the city was celebrating its 11th World Series title (second-most of all time) but the future of the team was in the back of everyone's mind. For context, Cardinals Manager and 3x World Series Champion Tony La Rusa announced his retirement in early November, just days after the victory parade.

Nearly a month later, Pujols announces that he decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels for a record-breaking 10-year, $254 million contract. To say Cardinals fans were perplexed and shocked is an understatement. What could the Angels offer that St. Louis couldn't aside from more money and better weather, especially coming off of a World Series win? Regardless, the Cardinals never seized on the opportunity to sign Pujols to a contract extension, a mistake they didn't want to repeat with newly-acquired superstar Paul Goldschmidt.

I think what hurt most about Pujols leaving St. Louis as he was a Cardinals-bred player through and through. He was drafted in the 13th round out of the 1999 Amateur Draft by the Cardinals before making his MLB debut in 2001. That's been the Cardinal manifesto for nearly the entire Modern Era: draft or acquire young Minor League talent, develop them before implementing them into the Major League system. It felt downright hurtful that Pujols would opt for the bright lights of Los Angeles over a city that had every intention of supporting him

But with most things, time passed and Pujols eventually became a peripheral point for Cardinals fans like myself who would briefly re-enter their lives on the occasional article or ESPN highlight. So when it was revealed that the Angels will be playing the Cardinals in June at Busch for the first time since Pujols left, he was suddenly back on every Cardinals fan's radar again.

So Angels and Cardinals media outlets were abuzz, prompting this interview with Graham Bensinger during Spring Training and the way Pujols frames the negotiations were really peculiar to me. He said he didn't feel truly wanted by the franchise, but we'll never know the whole truth unless we were actually there. I do know one thing though, every Cardinals fan wanted Pujols to be a Cardinal for life and he would have gone down as one of the greats without a doubt in anyone's mind. He spent his best years in St. Louis though and helped bring us two World Series' and for that, I'll always be grateful.

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