PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – It was sometime around Thanksgiving; I’m thinking between that holiday and Christmas when the direct message came buzzing to my iPhone. I don’t know — life’s been pretty much a blur since Darran, my then 5-year-old daughter (now 6) was diagnosed with leukemia on Nov. 7.
But back to the message, I remember it pretty well.
It was a Friday or Saturday night because I was still up decently late and looked down — it was from Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, one of the kindest souls you will ever come across.
To paraphrase, it went something like, “Hey man, been following Darran’s story and wanted to let you know to let me know if I can do anything. Don’t be afraid to ask. It’s really inspiring how tough she is. Hang in there.”
We traded a few messages and I told him we’d catch up at Spring Training. And we did. In his locker.
Know what we talked about that day in Bradenton? Not much baseball. We talked about cancer.
We talked about cancer in young people.
We talked about how my daughter was going to beat the hell out of it and all the rigors of her treatment.
He asked a ton of questions because he had indisputable interest and concern.
Know why we talked about that and not Taillon’s curveball or his poise on the mound or his penchant for throwing a ton of strikes? Because that’s where he steered the conversation. That’s what he genuinely cared about on that day inside the McKechnie Clubhouse as we talked.
That’s what kind of man Jameson Taillon is.
He saw someone who he knew was going through a rough time and wanted to serve as a person who checked in on him — Taillon felt a duty to care.
That’s why when the news blared over that same iPhone this afternoon that he had been afflicted with testicular cancer and had already had surgery this morning, I fell numb.
I’m sure the whole city fell numb when they heard the news. Cancer is so difficult to comprehend — any kind of cancer, even the kind afflicting Taillon which is said to have a great cure rate.
But cancer in young people is even more difficult to comprehend as it swoops in pretty much announced and can impact someone so strapping, stout and broad-shouldered as Taillon. It’s all so damn tough to grasp.
You know what isn’t tough to understand though? Jameson Taillon needs this city more than ever right now.
He needs Pittsburgh more now than he does when he’s working on a shutout in the ninth inning and the crowd rises at PNC Park to urge him along.
He needs Pittsburgh more now than he does when he’s trying to wriggle out of some bases loaded jam against that powerful Cubs lineup or when he’s trying to grit through a start to get the ball to the bullpen with a lead.
This ain’t baseball right now — this is life.
And when I needed someone many, many, many, many Pittsburghers reached out including adopted Pittsburgher Jameson Taillon.
He could use us all right now.
“We have told Jameson that our only priority is his health and well-being,” general manager Neal Huntington said in a statement. “His teammates, our coaches, baseball staff and entire organization will support him in his recovery in every possible way and we will keep him in our thoughts and prayers.”
So will this city.
I’m sure of it.
Trust me, helping people in their deepest time of need is what Pittsburghers do best — I know it firsthand.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.