Butler, Wasson trade chemo for curve balls

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2003

It really didn’t matter that Bart Butler went 0-for-4 in his American Legion baseball game Friday afternoon. It didn’t even matter that he rode the bench during the morning game.

What mattered was that he didn’t have to wear that pesky mask. He didn’t have to go home and worry about the chemo treatments that sent him to the bucket by his bed. He didn’t have to worry about the blood blisters or unbeknownst bruises or pulled calf muscles that appeared as quickly as the leukemia eating his body.

For the first time in more than two years, Butler has been released by doctors to act like the 16-year-old that he is. It also marks the first time Butler can look at his good friend Chris Wasson and understand why Wasson smiles a little more these days.

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Both Butler and Wasson are teammates on a junior American Legion baseball team that plays its home games in Demopolis. More importantly, both have beaten a disease that threatened to take more than a hitless streak away from them.

Butler just finished winning a game against leukemia. Wasson just finished winning a game against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

The story of Butler has been well-documented in Demopolis &045;&045; earlier this year, he was named grand marshal of the Christmas on the River parade. But as he and Wasson stood behind their dugout Friday morning, both said they’d just as soon see the sick label find a way out of the park.

Except for one group of friends, that is.

Not so long ago, Wasson and Butler couldn’t joke about anything. Both withstood days of chemotherapy treatment, and both didn’t know if their last days on earth were a week away.

Gary Butler remembers the days &045;&045; even the hours &045;&045; leading up to his son’s diagnosis and immediate treatment. Today, those days are but a memory that has made his family stronger.

On Friday morning, Gary Butler sat in the press box above the field where his son would soon play, and seeing the relief in his eyes didn’t take a psychological analysis.

To Bart Butler and Chris Wasson, the stamina and strength will come back soon enough. For the next five years, both will watch for signs of the cancer reappearing, but they won’t waste a day enjoying being in remission.

For these two quiet young men, they understand how good it is to run a wind sprint across the morning dew of the Demopolis SportsPlex. They also know that having a little sweat run into their eyes isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Most importantly, they know that having each other’s friendship has helped them turn a brush with death into a Friday at the ballpark.