Ohio State Baseball Enters Bone Marrow Registry to Aid Cancer-Stricken Teammate

By Kyle Rowland on May 14, 2014 at 1:00 pm

When Ohio State announced pitcher Zach Farmer would miss the remainder of the season after being diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, it sent shockwaves through the entire university. Here was a teenager, a college freshman who came to Ohio State after a standout high school career at Piketon. Health concerns should have been the furthest thing from his mind.

But reality strikes in the cruelest ways sometimes. So instead of adding to his 6-4 record and 34 strikeouts, or reducing his 3.28 ERA, Farmer is going through chemotherapy at the James Cancer Hospital. His teammates, a 33-member band of brothers, are playing out the rest of their season.

The final regular-season series is this week in Columbus before the Big Ten Tournament in Omaha, a destination the Buckeyes would like to reach again in June. Before that, though, the most coveted place is a lounge in the clubhouse. That’s where bone marrow testing occurred this week.

“We’re trying to support our teammate and our brother, Zach Farmer,” head coach Greg Beals told reporters this week. “But we’re also trying to get recognition for the registry and “Be The Match.” Hopefully we find a perfect match for Zach. Our goal and his goal, and the thing he’s latching onto more than anything, is the day he’s back in this dugout and back on that mound for Ohio State.”

Scouting and batting practice could wait. The first order of business was helping a teammate in need. Senior captain Tim Wetzel was the brainchild behind the initiative. He and Beals discussed the idea and presented it to the team. Remission means eligibility for bone-marrow transplants.  

“It is voluntary. It’s just something our captain, Tim Wetzel, grabbed the bull by the horns and ran with it,” Beals said. “Every guy jumped up. There were no questions or concerns at all.  This brotherhood thing is something that’s in you at Ohio State. It was a no-brainer inside the locker room.”

In all, 37 players and coaches signed up for the testing and provided health history reports all in the name of hopefully being OK’ed to donate. DNA samples will be tested and players should be on the national registry in June.

Wetzel immediately sprang into action when he learned of Farmer’s plight. Two years ago, he signed up for the national bone marrow donor program “Be The Match,” and indeed, he ended up being a match for a patient.

The Ohio State baseball team is encouraging other interested parties in registering by logging on to join.marrow.org//Zach. On Thursday, the site ZF11.org will go live. There will be on-site bone-marrow testing at the Fawcett Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.

Coach Beals also provided information through his Twitter account @bealsy9.

The process of donating bone marrow can take up to four hours. It causes soreness, but is minimally invasive and is an outpatient procedure.  

“The odds that one of us are a match for Zach are very, very slim,” Beals said. “But the odds that a match from Zach is going to come out of the registry, that’s what we’re hoping for.”

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