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Jon Lester Reminded Me That Athletes Are Human

Jon Lester is so much more than just a three time World Series Champion. He’s a humble human who has overcome some of life’s worst horrors.

"Jon Lester" by colinsteele is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Jon Lester Reminded Me That Athletes Are Human

Estimated Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Jon Lester, three time World Series Champion, has announced his retirement from Major League Baseball. In a career that spanned 16 seasons, Lester pitched in Boston, Oakland, Chicago, DC, and St. Louis. He’s a five-time all star who led the NL in wins in 2018, was NLCS MVP in 2016, and even has a no-no under his belt. The latter was achieved on May 19, 2008.

I graduated high school in 2005, so Jon Lester’s much anticipated big league career started about the same time I was trying to become a ‘real adult’. Growing up in Boston, you eat, breathe, sleep, and bleed Red Sox from the moment you’re born. So I was rooting for that team through the good and the bad. But at the point Lester came into the picture, I was on a high. The Sox were not far removed from their first World Series in 86 years, and Lester was a highly touted prospect in the farm system.

So the news that Jon Lester was diagnosed with lymphoma was a shock. This larger than life person isn’t infallible? Athletes aren’t impenetrable?

The young southpaw was diagnosed two months after making his big league debut. For most, this would be devastating, career ending news. But Jon was lucky to be both living in and from cities with out of this world cancer research and treatment centers. At the time, he was just 22 years old. His battle reminded me, very quickly, that we put athletes on a pedestal. They’re otherworldly to us. And on one hand, that’s okay. But on the other, we need to remember that they are, in fact, human. Just like us.

Adding to Lester’s superhero resume is the fact that he then came back three months later to take the hill for the Sox again that October. That’s just…wow. I cannot even fathom.

“I like to be known as a cancer survivor.”

Lester was able to pitch in, and win, his first World Series in 2007. He started the series clinching game against the Rockies that year. Then he was stellar in the ALDS in 2008. Lester helped lead the charge again in 2013. Then, in 2016, he helped exorcise the demons in Wrigleyville. But something he holds near and dear is the fact that he made it through cancer. Not only that, but seeing that he did it helps other people.

Every August, WEEI/NESN run a telethon to benefit the Jimmy Fund in Boston. Lester became a staple in this annual event. He also became spokesman for Rally Against Cancer.

On field accomplishments are great, and we loved watching Jon play. However it’s his everlasting effort to help uplift others, and to help battle against this deadly disease through research and awareness, that will stick out in the mind of this sports fan.

Jon Lester is a true professional. For me, he is the epitome of what an athlete should be. It’s not just that we recognize him as human. He recognizes all of us as human, too.

So as he walks off into the sunset of his career, let us all thank Lester for what he did on the field, but also for how he has carried himself and reminded us of the good in humanity. I tip my cap to you, Jon.

Kevin is an actor, director, playwright, and musician who works in tech. He is die hard New England sports and an avid Tottenham supporter. His qualifications include scoring 1 point in his elementary school basketball career, 4 years of mixed little league results, and breaking his arm with a skip-it days before pre-season workouts started for Freshman football.

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