In 2012, Alcohol. Think Again Perth Heat and Cleveland Indians OF Ben Shorto was told that he a T-Cell Lymphoma. A year and a half after this devastating Leukaemia diagnosis, a preliminary health clearance has Ben's spirits and motivations high. Ben intends to resume baseball career with the Cleveland Indians with whom signed at the age of just 16.
The Heat last caught up with Shorto as he and the Heat raised funds and awareness for the Leukaemia Foundation through March's World's Greatest Shave campaign. The Heat recently sat down with Ben to talk about his recovery, his baseball, and his hopes for the future.
MD: In 2012 you were drafted by the Cleveland Indians and at first it seemed like you were destined for major things with the Indians.
BS: Yeah, I got signed in January 2012 after nationals, and then I headed over to the US in April, I did my physical and my medical and everything turned out from there. I found out that I had T-Cell Lymphoma which I've now been cleared of and I'll go over next year for my first full year, so hopefully that pans out alright.
MD: You mentioned that they found T-Cell Lymphoma. How difficult was it finding out that you had the disease knowing that you now had to focus on that rather than your baseballing career?
BS: Yeah it was pretty difficulty trying to focus on two things. My friends and family were there through the whole thing, plus I was always at baseball which took my mind off it as well. I'll head down to training three times a week to take my mind off things and being down with the boys, throwing the ball and having a hit, it was actually quite easy to get through.
MD: Which boys helped you through it the most?
BS: Yeah it was a few of the Melville (Braves) boys and a few of the state boys, guys like Sam Kennelly, Jason Warburton...all them kind of guys. They always came and saw me, took me out places, just made me feel like I was a part so that I wasn't lonely at home getting all down and sorry for myself. They would make me feel normal.
MD: Obviously family is massive throughout anything medical. How much have your mum & dad helped you right throughout this?
BS: Heaps, especially my mum, she's been taking me to hospital which is up in the city and we live down south. My mum took me all the time and my sister, she would invite me over to hers quite often to chill out and talk about everything. I just can't thank my mum enough she's done so much for me...yeah, she's amazing.
MD:You mentioned that you're now cleared of the T-Cell Lymphoma?
BS: Yeah, I had my scan about six weeks ago and it was all clear, there were no hot spots anywhere, so I'll go to the Academy (Major League Baseball Australia Academy Program) on the 13th July, and hopefully I'll make the Aussie team, if not I'll come back and I have my final scan at the end of September and if that's all clear I'm completely in the clear.
MD: And how much are you looking at getting back into baseball full time and hopefully lining up for the Heat this season?
BS: I'm stoked to be playing now. This past year I haven't been able to play as much as I would like to. I missed out on the academy, I missed out on the Aussie team as well, so it's great to be back playing full time baseball and hopefully I'll be playing for the Heat this year.
MD: You mentioned Sam Kennelly earlier, who's been helping you through this. He got signed by the (Pittsburgh) Pirates at around the same age as you, so having him around and having gone through extended spring training already must be a major comfort.
BS: Sam and I have been good mates for a long time because we play at the same club. I was obviously down with him and we work out together. We'd always talk about baseball and plus when he was away with the Pirates we we're always talking about it. I was "How is it?" because I never got to experience it when I went over. He's been a great mate throughout it.
MD: So when are you heading over to the US again?
BS: I don't know yet, I still have to speak to my scouts, but hopefully I'll get my full spring training done and they said they're going to take it really slow with me, they're not going to rush me as much, but I'll probably be over there for my first full year and play rookie ball.
The Leukaemia Foundation are holding the Sunflower Club Speedo Dash, where participants race down the streets of Fremantle holding sunflowers and wearing Speedos, to raise money to support regional families in their fight against Leukaemia this Sunday. For more information, visit http://www.leukaemia.org.au/web/howtohelp/event.php?id=1022.