Jon Lester is scheduled to make his final start of a rough season on Tuesday night in New York City. Itís been a season in which heís lost more games than he has in his pro career. Itís been a season in which his ERA will finish more than a full run higher than his previous worst for a full big-league campaign. Itís been a season in which heís allowed more hits, yielded more runs, surrendered more home runs, and let more baserunners reach than he has in any before it.
Itís been a season thatís caused some to look at Lester differently on the mound.
But itís been a season thatís caused a few people in particular to look at Lester differently off the mound, too.
They are people who look at him not only as a left-handed pitcher for the Red Sox, but as a 28-year-old cancer survivor with a mission to do what he can to help those who encounter the disease at a young age like he did. They look at him as the person who in the early part of this season joined with his wife, Farrah, in launching a campaign to benefit the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. And they look at him as someone whose first summer of involvement seems to suggest he'll stand by the credo of that campaign and "Never Quit" -- or NVRQT, as they like to shorten it.
"Before anything else in his life, Jon is a family man," PCRF Executive Director Jeri Wilson said via email. "Upon being six years removed from non-Hodgkinís lymphoma, Jon couldnít fathom the thought of his son (Hudson) going through what he went through. Many athletes/celebrities are involved with causes near and dear to their hearts, but few have experienced first-hand the horrors of the cause theyíre hoping to cure."
According to Wilson (who is standing to Lester's right in the photo at the top of this page), the pitcher and his wife were waiting for the platform that best aligned with them personally, and after being presented a chance Lester said he "couldn't pass up" late last year, they initiated the NVRQT campaign at Fenway in May. Since then Lester has (among other efforts) met with kids on the field in Seattle, hosted 55 kids for NVRQT Day at Fenway Park, joined Hall of Famer Rod Carew for a NVRQT event at Angels Stadium outside of Los Angeles, put on a baseball clinic along the banks of the Charles River, and hosted September's NVRQT Night fundraiser at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street.
That event featured a Hollywood Squares-type game, and was well-attended by his teammates, by manager Bobby Valentine (who, to his credit, also rode his bike down to the river-side clinic lest hosted a couple weeks before), and by other local athletes and celebrities. At that point the Red Sox had lost four of five, and 18 of 25, but Lester wore the same smile that Wilson said he wears when he's around the kids he helps.
"Jon and Farrah have embraced the NVRQT campaign in a way that exhibits their passion and dedication at every turn. Jon sees himself in the kids and understands the responsibility of being a role model in their eyes," Wilson said of Lester, who was named the Red Sox' nominee for baseball's Roberto Clemente Award for his charitable work through NVRQT and other endeavors. "Many donít want the burden of being a role-model but Jon welcomes the challenge and truly feels blessed to have the opportunity to be there and interact with the kids. As much as heís able to put a smile on their faces, heís quick to tell you how much the kids motivate him.
"Now six years removed from treatment Jon takes nothing for granted, he tries his best to respond to every Twitter follower who has something positive to say. It's paramount to the success of the campaign for these children to see one of their idols overcoming adversity and following their dream. Knowing Jon's story gives children a sense of comfort and confidence that it is indeed possible to win the fight against cancer."
Wins haven't come often for Lester. It's been that kind of season on the mound.
But off of it, Lester's 2012 season seems to have been rather successful.
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