Dan Driscoll’s battle with cancer has been a point of inspiration to his son, Luke (left), and his Roadrunners teammates.
By Rich Bevensee
Dan Driscoll was hanging out with a group of the New England Roadrunners baseball team dads, shooting the bull, killing time before the start of his son’s game. Basically loving life while enjoying a rare break from weekly chemotherapy treatments.
Driscoll is battling his second bout of Stage 4 bile duct cancer, meaning the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Determined to enjoy at least a small portion of his son Luke’s summer baseball season, Driscoll asked for, and received, a reprieve from chemotherapy treatment to join the team on its trip from Massachusetts to Flemington, N.J., and Diamond Nation’s 16U World Series.
So on Wednesday evening, while Driscoll was chatting up the team dads, Luke and his teammates surprised Luke’s dad by entering the Diamond Nation concourse wearing red and baby blue T-shirts emblazoned with “DAN STRONG” on the front and a massive flexed bicep on the back.
“That was awesome. I was moved. Just speechless,” said Driscoll, whose weekly chemo treatments have made him sick four days a week and limited his opportunities to see his son play ball. “I’m just so happy I could be here to see my son and the team. And to see those shirts, I can’t describe it.”
Making the day more memorable was that the Roadrunners picked up their second win in as many games this week after Luke drove in a run to fuel his team’s 5-0 victory over Wave Baseball.
“I know everybody deals with stuff and this is my getaway, but to have him here to support me means a lot,” Luke said. “We know he goes through the ups and downs and for him to be here and support me is incredible.”
The tee-shirts were a perfect salute to a man who used to be a career powerlifter. Heck, at 6-1, 255 pounds, and with a massive barrel chest, Driscoll still looks as though he could move mountains.
The best part? The shirts were Luke’s idea, according to Susie Fischer, the team’s unofficial traveling secretary and whose son Pete is the Roadrunners’ catcher.
“We called Dan’s wife and told her we wanted to do Dan Strong shirts with the fundraising money, and she said I don’t want to ruin the surprise but Luke already bought shirts for the whole team,” Fischer said. “Luke wasn’t sure if the team would want to wear them, but the team, unbeknownst to Luke, wanted to wear them for Luke. That’s what kind of kids they are.
“They were supposed to wear them for the Fourth of July but Dan wasn’t feeling well from treatment, so Luke brought them all the way here in Matt’s (Roadrunner coach Matt Greenberg) truck. When the kids came out wearing the shirts, Dan welled up over here. He was completely surprised.”
Driscoll, wearing a navy blue Roadrunners dri-fit shirt, shook his head in amazement.
“It’s been great with all the support I’ve gotten from family and friends, and my son is amazing,” Driscoll said. “He’s the one who came up with this idea for the shirts. I love my family and want to do anything for my son to enjoy life.”
Driscoll, a resident of Whitman, Mass., on Boston’s South Shore, said he felt fortunate to be in attendance at Diamond Nation and the 46-team event. This is his second bout with bile duct cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s website, recurrent bile duct cancer may return in the bile ducts, liver or gallbladder, and less often, may come back in distant parts of the body.
According to the website, research has shown that several chemotherapy approaches can shrink bile duct tumors and possibly improve survival.
Driscoll, 57, began his first bout with cancer in April of 2021 and he completed chemo treatments eight months later.
“This is my second go-round with cancer,” Driscoll said. “It was staged at Stage 4 last year, I had surgery and they removed some stuff and it changed the stage. I thought I was safe for three months until I went in for my first check-up. Unfortunately it came back so now it’s in a new area and it’s incurable but treatable.
“I go through chemo every Thursday to hopefully shrink the tumors because surgery can’t happen, they told me, because it’s living microscopically in a bunch of places and they can’t get it all.”
Driscoll said stepping away from chemo for a week to make the trip to New Jersey and watch Luke play baseball with the Roadrunners was an easy decision to make. There’s nothing that pleases him more.
“(A week away from chemo) feels great, honestly,” Driscoll said. “I wish I didn’t have to start treatment again. I just feel like I can enjoy things, like having a beer. I had one with the guys last night, and during treatment I can’t because it bloats me and I don’t feel well.
“My doctors told me they couldn’t promise me there wouldn’t be any growth of the tumors after a week off, so we’re gonna scan when I get back and start up treatment right away. I made a decision that I wanted to enjoy my time with my family and my vacation and watch my son play baseball and I didn’t want to be sick, because I’m sick four days a week from treatment and I did not want to do that. I wanted to be able to eat normally, have something to drink, and enjoy spending time with the dads. I wanted to be here to see my son turn into a baseball player.”
Luke, a 6-1, 240-pound rising junior at Archbishop Williams in Braintree, Mass., didn’t have any fielding chances at third base for the Roadrunners but he did go 1-for-2 with a walk, an RBI and a run-scored.
“I don’t have too much trouble concentrating on playing baseball because it’s a getaway. I get in the zone,” Luke said. “But I know he’s here and it’s good for me because it helps me focus knowing he’s here to support me.”
“Dan is amazing,” Fischer said. “He’s there almost anytime his kid is there because he loves to be with his kid, and the moment he knew he was sick he was there even more.”
The rest of the Roadrunners took care of business early and shut out the Wave on the strength of six scoreless innings from right-handers Dylan Bausemer and Mason Smith.
Bausemer allowed two hits and two walks and struck out five in four innings, and Smith pitched two innings of relief, yielding one hit, one walk and one hit batsman with a strikeout.
In the top of the first inning Aiden Devlin, Nate Hackett and Driscoll walked to load the bases with two out for the Roadrunners. Jack Iovino lofted a towering fly which Wave center fielder Asher Solodar lost in the lights. The ball landed behind him and bounced to the wall as all three Roadrunners runners scored for a 3-0 lead while Iovino cruised into second base.
The Roadrunners picked up two more runs in the third inning. Fischer walked, stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a Driscoll ground out. Iovino then slammed a two-out triple to the left field wall and scored on a wild pitch.
For the Wave, Davey Yorke, Evan Rodriguez and Gabe Schulman each collected a base hit.
Wave starter Robert Havens pitched 2⅔ innings and yielded five runs on three hits and six walks with four strikeouts. Yorke pitched 3⅓ scoreless innings of relief and allowed three hits and three walks with three strikeouts.
The Roadrunners, who have already beaten the Frozen Ropes Rockies (6-4) and the Wave, continue play with a Thursday doubleheader, facing the 9ers Baseball Club at 12:15 p.m., and Ascent 2024 McCann at 2:15 p.m.
The Wave bowed to Tri-State Arsenal Marucci 2024, 7-4, before playing the Roadrunners. They also have a doubleheader on Thursday, with games against the East Coast Sandhogs at 10 a.m. and CT Rage at 2:15 p.m.