The USF baseball team couldn’t help but smile Sunday afternoon as barbers shaved players’ heads in the outfield grass near the third base line at the USF Baseball Stadium.
Not only had the Bulls just completed a bounce-back sweep of UCF with a 7-5 win in front of the largest crowd of the season (1,410), but they had also raised thousands of dollars in the fight against cancer.
In USF’s third annual “Cuts Vs. Cancer game,” players pitched in to help raise $12,231 for efforts against childhood cancer.
Bulls pitching coach Billy Mohl, who lost his wife to a rare from of cervical cancer, started hosting the event when he was a coach at Illinois State, and brought the tradition with him to USF in 2014.
“We as a team have been doing it for probably the past six or seven years,” Mohl said. “My wife died of cancer back in 2013. My head coach at Tulane, Rick Jones, his nephew as a freshman at North Carolina got diagnosed with brain cancer, and he’s the one who created (Vs. Cancer). Ever since then, I committed to staying with it every year.”
When Chase Jones was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer, going through the subsequent chemotherapy, his Tar Heel teammates shaved their heads in support of him. When Jones eventually survived the disease and his cancer was in remission, their selfless support gave him the idea to create Vs. Cancer.
USF is one of 90 organizations throughout professional, collegiate, high school and youth baseball that puts on this event each year.
Though the three-game sweep of the rival Knights put the Bulls in good spirits, it paled in comparison to the success of their fundraising efforts.
Players raised money in the weeks leading up to this game through social media and going out in the community to surpass their goal of $10,000.
“So many people are affected by cancer, it’s an awful disease,” sophomore catcher Tyler Dietrich said minutes before getting his blond Mohawk shaved. “Personally, some guys have lost family members (to cancer), I’ve lost some. When you raise so much money for a great cause like that to help kids in the community, it’s amazing.”
In the sweep, USF narrowly escaped with walk-off wins in the first two games of the series before winning a back-and-forth contest on Sunday.
USF coach Mark Kingston said he was pleased not only at his team’s ability to rebound from a 1-2 start to conference play, but also their composure in pressure situations.
Winning aside, Mohl said there’s little that compares with the feeling of seeing his players rally together for such a noble cause as they did on Sunday.
“It’s awesome,” Mohl said. “When you walk into a cancer ward and see 5 and 6 year olds battling cancer, for our team to give back to those kids to help them have a little better quality of life, it’s great. The guys do a really good job of rallying around the idea.”