Survivor Lopes hopes to help others

Survivor Lopes hopes to help others

PHILADELPHIA -- Davey Lopes moved briskly to Shane Victorino's locker, at a pace comparable to his playing days.

Using a phantom windup for emphasis, and stopping and starting as necessary, Lopes demonstrated when to steal on Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez. Victorino, his always-willing base-stealing pupil, nodded energetically.

With that message received, Lopes continued to Geoff Jenkins, to deliver another bit of wisdom gleaned from nearly 40 years in professional baseball. Though he couldn't be heard, the first-base coach's gesticulations gave away his enthusiasm.

From the bounce in his step, it's hard to believe the 63-year-old is less than three months removed from being a cancer patient at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., after undergoing prostate cancer surgery on St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm fine now," Lopes said. "It will always be there, but I feel good about where I'm at. The doctor told me [in February], 'The bad news is that you have it. The good news is you're going to be fine.'

"It helped to hear that right away. You hear the big C and it's scary, but I'm back on track."

After undergoing treatment, Lopes returned to the team in mid-April and to the first-base line a few weeks later. Returning to the game he loves and players who love him, Lopes finds this Father's Day special, especially as he's reminded of Major League Baseball's long-standing initiative for prostate cancer research.

Since 1997, MLB and the MLB Players Association have teamed with the Prostate Cancer Foundation for the Home Run Challenge to raise more than $28 million for research. In 2007, the Home Run Challenge raised more $2.6 million for the cause.

Every season during Father's Day week, teams accept donations from fans and sponsors who pledge $1 to $10,000 for each home run hit during 60 selected games.

"I'm in a different fraternity now," Lopes said. "It's not a fraternity that you want to get into, but you are part of it now, so you look at it as, what can you do to help? By talking about it, and emphasizing early detection, is how to help.

"A lot of people don't go to doctors, but one blood test can give you a general idea that something is happening. Once that's happened, you can find out and get it corrected. Not knowing is more detrimental than knowing, if not more. If you catch it early, the way things are today with the doctors and the faith that you have, you can get through it." As a public figure, Lopes doesn't mind using his celebrity to spread the word about the importance of getting tested. He's received countless cards, letters and calls from people who have been through similar ordeals, and find his fight inspiring, from his mechanic to an employee who works at Citizens Bank Park.

Many people can relate.

"You can help people just by talking to them," Lopes said. "That's a good feeling. A friend of mine called a few weeks ago -- he just had surgery -- and it helped him to talk about it. I called a couple of ex-players who have had the surgery, and they helped me. The awareness of the disease is there every day on TV. When it hits athletes, maybe it draws attention a little more. It's in the papers. It's on the radio. It's on the TV, and you think, 'Maybe I should get checked.'"

Lopes' cancer was detected during a routine physical, and surgery was performed a few weeks later. After battling initial fatigue, Lopes feels as he did before the surgery. His younger brother Patrick Lopes -- one of nine siblings -- and daughter Vanessa Lopes helped him appreciate his health.

His greatest worry now is how to help Victorino steal second base.