Pittsburgh Pirates fans are looking forward to Sunday afternoon’s season-opening game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates have qualified for the playoffs the last three seasons and looked to be primed for another playoff run this year.
As part of the pregame festivities, the Pirates have invited someone who is fighting for more than a playoff spot to throw out the first pitch. They gave the honor to University of Pittsburgh running back James Conner, who is fighting for his life. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy in being treated for cancer.
“I’m honored and thrilled to throw out the first pitch for the Pirates’ season opener and I want to thank everyone in the organization for this incredible invitation,” Conner said. “It has been a long time since I played baseball but I’ll make sure my arm is ready to throw a strike on Sunday. The Bucs’ road to the World Series begins this weekend and I can’t wait to be at PNC Park.”
Conner earned ACC Player of the Year honors two seasons ago after rushing for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game last year. While sitting out the season, Conner complained in December about not feeling well. Test results showed he had Hodgkin Lymphoma.
“Fear is a choice,” Conner said. “I choose to not fear cancer. I choose to fight it, and I will win.”
Conner is at the tail end of his treatments. He also participated in limited drills during the Panthers’ spring practice season to show his cancer diagnosis has not slowed him down.
Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi compared Conners’ attitude toward the cancer treatments to the Panthers’ celebration when entering the fourth quarter to show their determination.
“James is in the fourth quarter of his treatments now,” Narduzzi said. “You know what we do in the fourth quarter.”
Conner was honored as a member of the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team last year. The honor is given to a select group of football student-athletes who have made a positive impact on others and their communities.
Conner’s volunteers for Children’s Hospital, Mel Blount Youth Home, the humanitarian organization World Vision as well as the National Kidney Foundation, which honored him with its 2015 “Small Hands Big Heart” Award.
During Conner’s hospital visits, he hands out his used game gloves as souvenirs to young patients. He plans on collecting more game-used gloves next season as he expects to return to the football field.
for more information: Pitt web site