MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Hall, Gonzo shave beards, but cancer fight continues

With deadly disease hitting close to home, D-backs again participate in 'Let Your Humankindness Grow'

Hall, Gonzo shave beards, but cancer fight continues

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks are a franchise that has been plagued by cancer. Ken Kendrick, the managing general partner, is a prostate cancer survivor. So is team president Derrick Hall, whose father died of pancreatic cancer, and Hall's wife, Amy, is now battling triple-negative breast cancer.

Others in the organization have passed away from various forms of this insidious disease.

Amy was diagnosed this past season, when the D-backs played well under expectations. They lost 93 games, and after the season, changes were made. Mike Hazen entered as executive vice president and general manager, and Torey Lovullo replaced manager Chip Hale. Both came from the Red Sox.

Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation

As tough as the past three seasons have been on the field, they've been tougher on the lives of Hall and his family.

"It does put life into perspective," the incessantly upbeat Hall told MLB.com on Thursday. "But baseball is such a big part of both of our lives, it would have made her diagnosis and treatments that much easier if we had been in a better position in the standings. I want to win both battles."

Hall laughed softly as he made that last statement.

The only way to face cancer is head on, and for the second consecutive year, Hall accepted a challenge issued by the folks who run the cancer center affiliated with local St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center. He grew his beard during the month of November as a statement to support early detection of cancer. The project is appropriately called, "Let Your Humankindness Grow."

Stand Up To Cancer

Hall was joined again by Luis Gonzalez, one of his senior advisors, whose Game 7 walk-off single against Mariano Rivera won the 2001 World Series for the D-backs over the Yankees.

Hall said last year that Gonzo's bushy beard was sprinkled so heavily with white and gray, it made him look like "a Chia Pet." It was grayer this time around. Hall's growth was also streaked with gray.

Once again, the pair was in the courtyard outside of the University of Arizona Cancer Center on Seventh and Fillmore Streets in downtown Phoenix just about a mile north of Chase Field for the great shave-off. The two then lathered up.

It's a fun event that highlights the dangers of a deadly disease. Prostate cancer killed an estimated 26,000 people this year in the U.S., said figures provided by cancer.net. The same site estimated that slightly more than 40,000 American women died of breast cancer during the same period.

"This month has grown tremendously throughout the nation, no pun intended," Hall said. "The whole month of November to drive awareness to men's cancers has been very special to most of us that have unfortunately been victim to it. Just the growth and the prominence of cancer around us is what's been so frightening. Not just for men, but for women, too. I'm going through that now with my wife."

Hall learned he had prostate cancer in 2011 and almost immediately underwent invasive surgery that revealed the disease had spread further than tests had indicated. Just as he was beginning to recover from that ordeal, his father, Larry, lost a three-year battle to pancreatic cancer. Hall's dad was 68.

His wife discovered a mass in her breast earlier this year, and with that began two extended cycles of chemotherapy to shrink the tumor enough so she can have surgery. What is slated to follow is a period of radiation therapy. So far, the tumor is shrinking.

This latest calamity could have upended anybody's life. At the same time, Hall's PSA (Prostate-Specific Antigen) spiked. That is the marker in the blood used to diagnose prostate cancer. And so, his doctors put him back on a regimen of three months between tests rather than six. His last two tests were normal.

Hall is very public about his cancer treatment, and now so is his wife.

"It never ends," Hall said. "It suddenly became detectable again, and they don't know why. It's something we have to pay attention to. It allows me to educate others as I go through the journey myself."

Attitude is so much a part of coping with cancer, Hall knows too well. And from the moment he was diagnosed, he has had a very positive one.

Amy takes his lead.

"She's been great," Hall said. "She's been the perfect role model to show our daughter how to go about something like this. I always say to her that, 'It's amazing you never complain.' Amy says, 'It's not an option. Let's just keep going.' She'll get through it."

The D-backs partner in the community with both the University of Arizona Cancer Center and Dignity Health, St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, and have donated in excess of $40 million to Phoenix-area organizations since the club's inception in 1998.

On Thursday, they made another sizable donation toward the cancer research conducted by the University of Arizona and St. Joseph's, leaving behind more than just their whiskers in the morning's chill wind.

November again is over. But the fight against cancer is ongoing.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.