Cass County Democrat Missourian

Lee’s Summit, Ray-Pec high schools team up to Strike Out Cancer

During the junior varsity game, Raymore-Peculiar sophomore Brian Sparks reaches for first base as Lee’s Summit West sophomore Tucker Crain (right) throws to sophomore Brady Rhoden. Ray-Pec won the game 4-3.
During the junior varsity game, Raymore-Peculiar sophomore Brian Sparks reaches for first base as Lee’s Summit West sophomore Tucker Crain (right) throws to sophomore Brady Rhoden. Ray-Pec won the game 4-3. Special to The Democrat

It’s three strikes, and maybe cancer is a little closer to being out. That’s the hope behind the annual Strike Out Cancer baseball games between Raymore-Peculiar High School and Lee’s Summit West High School.

The fundraiser, now in its eighth year, tallied $10,500 for H8Cancer.org, a non-profit that supports cancer research. Each year, a different organization related to cancer benefits from the game. Last year, it was Children’s Mercy Hospital.

Four teams each from both schools played April 22 at Raymore Peculiar High School, with Lee’s Summit West coming out on top 6-5 in varsity and 9-2 and 7-0 with its C-teams.

In the junior varsity game, which drew more than 100 spectators, Ray-Pec defeated Lee’s Summit West 4-3.

For attendees, the games were about more than scoring runs. Eric Shepard of Raymore said his mother-in-law died of brain cancer in April, and his own mother died after battling breast cancer.

“This is a very important game for us,” Shepard said. “I think it’s great that the rivalry between us and Lee’s Summit West is doing this.”

Before the varsity game, players brought special guests whose lives had been touched, directly or indirectly, by the disease.

“A lot of times we forget the impact on the people around the individual. How many people are on the same boat? A grandparent, a sibling — they come out of the woodwork sharing their stories, empathizing with you,” said Jay Meyer, head coach for Lee’s Summit West. “When you see everybody out there, you’re not alone. There’s an unwritten bond — good old human compassion.”

Former Royals player and thyroid cancer survivor Danny Jackson also spoke before the game.

It’s also personal for the head coaches of both schools. Meyer and Ray-Pec coach Gary Renshaw both have spouses who have survived the disease.

A few years ago, they used the game to remember a student who had died of cancer.

“It’s a really sobering moment. You don’t forget those moments of silence; you don’t forget that reflection time,” Meyer said.

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