After weeks of temperamental weather — rain and snow tailored the athletic schedule and left the game day fate of teams up in the air — Muhlenberg baseball had what many would call a perfect day for baseball. This past Saturday, in balmy 80 plus degree weather managed only by the consistent breeze which hung in the air, the team packed hats, bats and mitts and made the drive to their home field at Cedar Creek Park. Amongst the tools of their trade was an electric razor, because despite a typical game against a conference opponent at an all too familiar diamond, this day was a special day for the Mules.

Saturday, Apr. 14 marked the Mules’ annual ‘Vs. Cancer’ game, a day dedicated to celebrating the team’s fundraising accomplishments for the Vs. Cancer organization. According to its website, Vs. Cancer is a non-profit organization striving to save kids’ lives by empowering athletes and communities to fund lifesaving childhood cancer efforts.

Muhlenberg baseball is just one of many collegiate teams that have worked with Vs. Cancer. Chase Jones, a former college baseball player who was diagnosed with brain cancer while playing at UNC Chapel Hill, leveraged his personal network to start and grow his foundation.

“Many of his contacts were in collegiate baseball,” said Rachel Mark, Vs. Cancer’s Associate Campaign Director. “We have found great success when working with these teams because coaches and universities are often looking for a charitable cause their athletes can support during the year. The schools love to see their students using their platform as athletes for good and we offer them an opportunity to change kids’ lives by fundraising for pediatric cancer research and their local children’s hospital.”

For Muhlenberg, most players set personal goals and fundraise through social media, according to Justin Revel ‘19, who became the student liaison after volunteering to take on the funding aspect. This year the team raised about $4,500 for both local facilities and the national organization.

This season, the Mules baseball team finished their Vs. Cancer campaign as the 16th most lucrative fundraiser across the NCAA (including Division I,II, and III teams) and raised the most money out of any Centennial Conference team.

The culmination of all their efforts? Shaving their heads.

Each year that Muhlenberg baseball has paired with Vs. Cancer, players volunteer to shave their head in both celebration for their donation and as a sign of support for those that lose their hair because of cancer treatments. This year Jake Picker ‘19 and Arya Bharatiya ‘20, along with head coach Tod Gross, were the members of the team that said goodbye to their locks.

For Picker, it’s about more than just hair.

The baseball team’s newest team member, Bobby, officially signs his Team Impact National Letter of Intent committing to Muhlenberg. Photo courtesy of Muhlenberg College Athletics

“The whole point of the head shaving is to make a sacrifice in support of a greater cause, and I think I understand and recognize that and that’s why I choose to do it every year,” said Picker, who shaved his head for the fourth straight season. “I know my hair will grow back. Unfortunately not all those kids are that fortunate, so I do it in support of those children battling.”

In the past, Muhlenberg’s Vs. Cancer game was a visual representation of months of effort for a charitable cause. But Saturday’s game was different than all the other Vs. Cancer games of the past.

Immediately following the  double header against McDaniel College, Muhlenberg officially signed Bobby DiGiacomo, a nine-year-old baseball player who, after a three-and-a-half year battle with high risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia, has been off chemotherapy since this past June. Decked out in a Muhlenberg baseball cap and jersey, and surrounded by the six players that serve as Team Impact ambassadors, Bobby made that day all the more special for his new team.

“The game definitely means much more with Bobby on the team this year,” said Revel. “It gives our team an opportunity to understand why we do this fundraiser and how important it truly is. But overall, Bobby has inspired our team in so many ways this season, not just for this particular game.”

It’s all about the kids, and Mark was excited that Muhlenberg’s dedication to the cause went beyond just fundraising for Vs. Cancer.

“Team Impact is a wonderful organization and we are thrilled the Muhlenberg baseball team has become involved,” said Mark. “First, it is an escape from focusing on their disease. They can hang out with the team and enjoy themselves, rather than think about treatments, surgeries or anything else cancer related. Second, it offers the child an extended network of support. These kids know that an entire team of collegiate athletes are rallying around them and supporting them through the disease. That can have a major impact on a child’s life.”

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Alyssa Hertel was the Managing Editor of The Muhlenberg Weekly. She graduated with a degree in Media & Communication with double minors in Creative Writing and International Relations. An avid fan of perfectly average sports teams, she is pursuing a career in journalism focusing in sports.


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