NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, October 20, 2015, 5:56 PM
As entertaining as the playoffs have been, baseball fans were reminded Monday that life’s most significant challenges take place away from the diamond.
Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris — one of the sport’s brightest young stars, who drew attention for embracing nature while living out of a van on his way to spring training — announced via social media that he had a cancerous growth on his thyroid, and he would be undergoing surgery to have it removed.
“I’ve been debating for months as to how or even if I should share this with people,” Norris wrote on Instagram. “I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer. So now, I’m asking for prayers.”
A second-round selection of the Blue Jays in 2011, the top prospect was the centerpiece of the package Toronto put together to acquire ace David Price in July. Detroit’s brass said the organization was aware of the diagnosis when it arranged to acquire Norris, whom the club expects to make a full recovery.
As Norris prepares to “get this thing out” and battle his condition, here is a list of 10 other ballplayers who were forced to confront cancer during their careers:
Anthony Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2008, one year after the Red Sox drafted him in the sixth round. Six months of chemotherapy later, the prospect entered remission.
Since then, the slugging first baseman has started the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation and gone on to become a crucial contributor for the Cubs, whom he has represented in two straight All-Star Games.
The Cubs’ Jon Lester overcame anaplastic large cell lymphoma while still with the Red Sox.
One person who helped Rizzo in his cancer fight was Jon Lester, who battled anaplastic large cell lymphoma as a Red Sox rookie in 2006.
After undergoing chemotherapy, the southpaw returned to baseball midway through the 2007 season and helped Boston win the World Series.
The three-time All-Star — who now plays with Rizzo in Chicago — established NVRQT, a campaign aimed at combatting pediatric cancer.
Mike Lowell — the MVP of that 2007 World Series — learned he had testicular cancer before the 1999 season, shortly after the Yankees dealt him to the Marlins.
The third baseman had the testicle removed and went through radiation treatment rather than chemotherapy as part of his recovery.
The four-time All-Star had a productive career in Florida and Boston, winning a championship with each organization.
Mike Lowell had a cancerous testicle removed and underwent radiation therapy.
After turning 30 in 2003, Derek Lowe noticed a spot on his nose that kept growing. It turned out to be squamous cell carcinoma, and the former Red Sox sinkerballer underwent surgery to have the tissue removed that December.
The two-time All-Star and 2004 World Series champion was permanently scarred by the operation, and he was left wary of being out in the sunlight.
Similar to Lowe, Mark Loretta dealt with skin cancer, although the melanoma he was found to possess after the 2004 season had the potential to be much more serious.
Fortunately, doctors discovered the infielder’s condition early and were able to perform surgery before it reached a point where his career could be affected. He spent 15 years in the majors, making two All-Star teams.
Not all of Darryl Strawberry’s off-field issues were self-inflicted.
While enjoying a late-career renaissance with the Yankees in 1998, the eight-time All-Star was diagnosed with colon cancer that October, which resulted in surgery and chemotherapy that kept him from appearing in the postseason.
The Yankees dedicated their 1998 title to Strawberry, who would undergo more surgery and chemotherapy after the cancer returned in 2000.
The year Strawberry was diagnosed with colon cancer was the same year Eric Davis made his comeback from the same affliction. And the two were actually longtime friends who grew up together in Los Angeles.
A two-time All-Star with Cincinnati, Davis went to Baltimore and missed part of 1997 after undergoing surgery and chemotherapy. He came back in ’98 and batted a career-high .327.
On the heels of three straight All-Star appearances with the Phillies, John Kruk was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1994 after a mishap during a game the previous summer.
An errant pickoff throw by pitcher Mitch Williams struck the current ESPN broadcaster in the groin and broke his protective cup, and it was only upon closer inspection that doctors realized Kruk would require surgery.
After hitting 40 or more homers in each of the previous three seasons, Andres Galarraga was forced to sit out the 1999 campaign upon being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during spring training.
After undergoing chemotherapy, the Venezuelan and five-time All-Star came back to post solid numbers in 2000. His cancer relapsed in 2004, but after more chemotherapy Galarraga was able to beat it again.
Dave Dravecky’s cancer experience was one of baseball’s most memorable — and most unfortunate. An All-Star in 1983, the pitcher underwent surgery in ’88 after a cancerous desmoid tumor was discovered in his throwing arm.
He fought his way back to the mound in 1989, but the arm snapped in his second outing. That was it for Dravecky, who would lose the arm to amputation.