Strike 3 Foundation

The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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Teen cancer survivor just wants to be one of the guys

THE BASEBALL diamond has always been a sanctuary for Hudson Davis from his troubles, and tonight at the Oakland Coliseum, it will be intriguing to see how the mound works its magic again.

Davis, an aspiring 13-year-old baseball player from Lafayette, is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch as a guest of A’s pitcher Craig Breslow and his Strike 3 Foundation, which has done great work raising funds for childhood cancer research.

Breslow couldn’t have enlisted a better young man to assist his cause. "Huddy" was profiled on the front page of this newspaper on July 25, 2008, after playing through his 12-year-old Little League season while undergoing a series of punishing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a brain tumor.

Davis’ courageous story resonated and served as an inspiration throughout the Bay Area … to cancer patients, baseball fans and people who simply savor a compelling yarn about the incredible dimensions of the human spirit. For months after it appeared, people contacted me to ask how Hudson was doing, so on the occasion of his recent one-year anniversary of being cancer-free as well as tonight’s first-pitch honor, it’s an appropriate time for an update.

In short, Hudson’s doing great physically. He’s had three checkups since his final treatment last July and there has been no recurrence of the cancer. He’s gained nearly 20 pounds since dropping to a low of 91 pounds near the end of his treatments. He’s grown a few inches. His face has filled out and he looks like a normal, healthy kid. After overcoming some sinus infections and allergies that bothered him during the school year, the only remaining hint of the hell he went through is that his hair is taking its time coming back.

It may sound strange for someone who has weathered such an ordeal, but the real challenge in Hudson’s recovery the past 12 months has been coping with his new identity as a cancer survivor and how to adapt the significance of that into his new, reclaimed life.

"He’s not very talkative about it because he doesn’t like going through it too much," said his father, Greg Davis. "It’s just a hard transition right now. I think he will get there, but it’s going to take time."

Hence, the invitation to throw out the first pitch in a major-league stadium was a double-edged sword. Hudson loved the idea of doing it from a baseball standpoint, but had some trepidation about the other aspects of it. It will help, his parents said, that his 9-year-old sister Molly will accompany him to the mound and hand him the ball before he throws it.

"Hudson doesn’t want anyone to work with him or for him because he’s a cancer kid … he doesn’t want to be reminded of it," said his mother Ellen. "So for him to stand in that stadium (tonight) is so significant because they’re going to be on a loudspeaker talking about how he’s a cancer survivor. That is huge. I’m really happy for him because of the baseball part of it, but I’m most happy for him because it shows a huge amount of maturity and acknowledgement that, ‘This is who I am. Yes, world, I did it.’

"He’s confronting it more than he ever has, but at the same time, it’s hard to reconcile when you’re 13. It’s hard to reconcile when you’re an adult."

As he did last year, Davis has gained much in his emotional recovery simply by playing the game he loves as often as he can. He joined a club travel team in Dublin last September that just finished a rigorous campaign by winning a USSSA 13-and-under tournament in Fremont last weekend. He began developing his skills as a catcher when his team was shorthanded, and also played second base, third base and the outfield. Pitching remains his first love, though, and to that end, Hudson threw a four-hitter in helping his team to the tournament title.

Hudson is also working privately on his game and his conditioning with Saint Mary’s College assistant baseball coach Mike McCormack. Through that link, he’s developed associations with members of the Gaels’ team and is a regular at the team’s games. He’ll be an eighth-grader this coming year at Stanley Middle School but clearly is looking even further down the road. He admitted his No. 1 goal is to play high school baseball, and do so on his own terms.

"Hudson wants to know he has the credentials to be playing with those guys," said Ellen. "He wants to know he’s there because he can hold his own, because he’s earned it, that he’s got something to bring to the table. He doesn’t want to looked at as a charity case."

It’s just another reason to love this kid and wish him the best. As his oncologist at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, Dr. Joseph Torkildson, wrote in an e-mail to Greg Davis after hearing of Hudson’s tournament heroics, "It’s great to hear stories of real success, meaning patients aren’t just alive, they’re living the life they want to live."

Word of advice for Breslow: When you set up to catch the first ball, be ready. Hudson may accept and acknowledge that he’s a cancer survivor, but he’s going to show himself as a determined baseball player first. After all, that’s all he’s ever wanted the outside world to see.

By Carl Steward

August 3, 2009 · Reprinted from The Oakland Tribune © 2009

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The Strike 3 Foundation heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research.

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Strike 3 Foundation
PO Box 191
Monroe, CT 06468

(203) 502-0007

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