When USF softball coach Ken Eriksen met U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor for batting practice at the USF Softball Stadium on Friday, the two weren’t just training in hopes of beating the Washington press corps in this month’s Congressional Women's Softball Game.
They were training in hopes of beating something much more serious — breast cancer.
“This is a game where the women in Congress — Republicans and Democrats — play against the women of the press corps,” Castor said. “But the real foe is cancer and we’re playing both sides to beat cancer.”
After a quick game of catch, Eriksen took Castor (D-Tampa) to the batting cages and evaluated her swing.
“The great part about it right now is her softball IQ. If she’s on the bases I think everybody has to watch out,” Eriksen joked. “I’d be hard-pressed to be her agent right now.”
The Congressional Women’s Softball Game is an annual charity game in its 11th year between the women of Congress and the women of the Washington press corps. Each year, members of the teams hit the field in Washington to raise funds and awareness for young women affected by breast cancer.
This year, Castor is playing on behalf of Theresa Jean-Pierre Coy, otherwise known as Tenacious Theresa, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017 at age 37.
“It is such an honor,” Jean-Pierre Coy said Friday. “When I got the call I was taken back. It is such an honor. [Castor] has done so much for the community. To have her going to D.C. and playing on my behalf, it really is an honor for me and my family.”
Tenacious Theresa endured six miscarriages before giving birth to her son Thaddeus in January 2017. In the following six months after her son’s birth, she noticed an abnormality in one of her breasts.
“It didn’t seem odd to me that one was firmer than the other,” Jean-Pierre Coy said in 2018. “Like all working women, I thought, ‘I’m taking care of Thaddeus, and I’ll get to the doctor when I can.’”
Nine months later, she went for her first mammogram and discovered that she had developed stage 3 inflammatory breast cancer.
Today, she is a one-year cancer survivor.
She decided that her story doesn't end with just surviving cancer, however.
Jean-Pierre Coy was most recently the president of the George Edgecomb Bar Association and together with the George Edgecomb Society, they raised $120,000 for cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center.
As a mother, an attorney and a local hero, Tenacious Theresa’s story is inspiring Castor to play her best.
After losing to the press corps last year, Castor feels the Congress team has what it takes to come out on top this year. Eriksen gave Castor’s softball game his seal of approval ahead of the big day on June 19, praising not only Castor’s game sense but her impact as a leader in the community.
“This is not coach speak,” Eriksen said, “… the things you [Castor] represent and the causes that you get behind are applicable to everybody in the United States but you’d be foolish in Tampa Bay if you didn’t appreciate what you did for us.”
With the fundraiser game a week away, it’s easy for both sides to get caught up in the light competition, especially given the political tension between both Democrats and Republicans.
But this very special game of softball is much more than just beating one another.
For Tenacious Theresa, this game means a second chance at life for young women with stories like hers.
“Tampa has truly wrapped their arms around me since my diagnosis and I don’t know where I’d be without them,” she said. “I don’t know where I’d be without the support of everyone.”