Hitting it out of the park: Carone fighting cancer with BP

Former Minor Leaguer, diagnosed in '13, organizes events to raise money for charity

Hitting it out of the park: Carone fighting cancer with BP

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after Rick Carone was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2013, Adam LaRoche, then a member of the Nationals, knew his friend needed some sort of inspiration.

LaRoche's idea, according to Carone: "Come out and hit with them and be a part of their club."

So Carone, a Minor League catcher from 1993-96, joined the Nationals when they came to Wrigley Field in '13 and enjoyed "a day in the life" as a Major League baseball player. Carone, a Cary, Ill., native, said that it boosted his morale for his upcoming chemotherapy treatment. 

And when LaRoche and the Nationals came to play the Cubs in Chicago in 2014, he asked Carone to join them again.

That same year, Carone met Jake Peavy, then a member of the Boston Red Sox. Peavy and other players began asking, "Why don't you come hit with us?" Carone realized at that point that his participation in batting practice with Major League clubs could turn into something much more worthwhile. About two years later, it has.

Carone, with help from Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland, launched the first "Shut Down Cancer BP" at AT&T Park in 2015, and he has since participated in batting practice with multiple organizations. Through these events, Carone and his charity, the Team Carone Foundation, have raised money for multiple cancer charities across the country.

The first event in San Francisco raised $32,255 in donations for the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, St. Jude's Hospital and the Team Carone Foundation. As a result, Carone's foundation was linked to Major League Baseball and the Giants' "Strike Out Cancer" initiative in 2016.

"I've got to give back as long as I still feel well enough to hit and get out there," said Carone. "It not only is helping raise money for childhood cancer and inspiring other kids and other people, but it's also helping me move forward and inspiring me to give back."

Carone had plans to take batting practice with the Nationals and the White Sox in 2015, but he had to cancel the events due to health issues. However, the success of "Shut Down Cancer BP" with the Giants set the stage for other organizations to invite him to their ballparks in '16. He's taken part in batting practice at San Francisco and Miami this year, and he expects to join the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers in September.

The proceeds raised from the events this year will go to Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago. Specifically, the efforts will benefit a young child named McKai Malooley, who has an aggressive form of cancer known as rhabdomyosarcoma. Malooley is also from Cary.

"I got two daughters myself and have a soft spot for kids. We're adults -- we can fight for ourselves, but what about the kids?" Carone said.

As long as Carone feels healthy, he hopes to continue setting up batting-practice events like the ones held at AT&T Park. He insists that credit for the events belongs to others, too, including his family, friends and the ballclubs.

"You can't win this fight on your own," Carone said. "You've got to have help."

Carone can't help but feel blessed by the reception he's received from dozens of coaches and players around the league. Strickland met Carone during the 2014 playoffs, and the two have stayed connected thanks to shared interests in hunting and fishing. Strickland has had an active part in the batting-practice events, and he can often be seen in the Giants' clubhouse wearing a "#ShutDownCancer" shirt.

"I was touched by [Carone's] story and was fortunate to get him out last year, and then we did it again this year. We're just trying to raise as much money as possible for a good cause," said Strickland. "I can use my platform from baseball to help reach out."

Strickland wasn't the only person to make Carone feel welcome when he came to San Francisco. In fact, Buster Posey has a newly founded charity to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer. Carone added that he "had a good human moment outside of baseball" while speaking with Giants manager Bruce Bochy, whose friend Darrel Akerfelds died of pancreatic cancer in 2012.

Through these events, Carone has realized just how many people pancreatic cancer impacts. White Sox closer David Robertson talked with Carone about his father-in-law, who died from the disease this past year. Carone's own mother passed away just six weeks after her pancreatic cancer diagnosis in 1998.

"It's one of those things that hit home with me, and I always wanted to do something in my parents' honor," Carone said.

"God willing," said Strickland, "we are able to do this for a long time."

Justin Wise is a reporter for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.