Sip Happens: Red Sox lefty Craig Breslow makes best pitch against pediatric cancer
"It can affect any child. It’s color blind, blind to economic status. Too many people have a story of a child, or a friend or neighbor’s child being stricken with this disease. People are genuinely good and sincere — they want to help if you give them the opportunity to do so. – Craig Breslow"
Craig Breslow was a key contributor to the Boston Red Sox championship season in 2013. The veteran lefty logged a 5-2 record and 1.81 ERA in 61 regular season appearances, and then posted seven consecutive scoreless postseason outings against the Rays and Tigers on the way to the World Series.
It was par for the course for Breslow. The Yale-educated pitcher, the first Bulldog to pitch in the Majors since Ron Darling, has been one of the more effective relievers in baseball over the past decade. But ten years ago, before he built that track record, he was released from the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“There had been times I’d struck out or lost a game; this was the first time in my life I felt like I wasn’t good enough. It was certainly a time for reflection and confusion,” Breslow remembers.
He thought about becoming a doctor; he had a personal motivation for doing so: his sister Lesley had been stricken with pediatric thyroid cancer at age 14. Breslow aced the MCAT and was accepted to New York University School of Medicine. But, at 24, the allure of the baseball diamond was still there.
He relied on the counsel of college teammate and fellow late-round Major League draft pick Matt McCarthy, author of Odd Man Out, who was already on his way out of the game and into the medical field.
McCarty said something that resonated with Breslow: go ahead with medical school, if you’re OK seeing a baseball game on TV and wondering, “Could that be me out there?”
The following year, Breslow surfaced at the Major League level with the San Diego Padres and posted a 2.20 ERA in 14 appearances. Three years later, with a World Series ring in tow (as a member of the 2007 Red Sox), he disembarked the carousel from Triple-A to the Majors. And the Strike 3 Foundation was born.
“Once I determined I was going to play baseball for the foreseeable future, I wanted to remain connected to the medical world — this alternate life that I’d thought was just as likely an outcome,” Breslow reflects. The foundation, which supports research and treatment for pediatric cancer in children, has generated over $2 million in support since 2008.
One of the foundation’s signature events is “Sip Happens.” The second annual event emanates May 19th from the Boston Children’s Museum and will offer food and wine pairings from some of the top restaurants and wineries in the region. Attendees will hear from bestselling author Ben Mezrich (Bringing Down the House, The Accidental Billionaires) and Jeffrey Ma, member of the MIT Blackjack Team that was the inspiration for the former book.
Not to mention the chance to mingle with Breslow and some of his champion Red Sox teammates.
“It would be impossible for the Foundation to have the success it’s had without the support of the organizations I’ve played for and the players I’ve played with,” says Breslow. “We’ve had real positive feedback – teammates have donated memorabilia, donated their time; some of the biggest financial donations have come from teammates.”
Photo courtesy of Strike 3 Foundation.
On a personal level, the reliever and his wife, Kelly, feel very strongly about their stake in the operation and are involved on a day-to-day basis. To maximize dollars reaching worthy destinations — for instance, $500,000 to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplantation Program, support for an oncology fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and two “Young Investigator Awards” in 2014 through the Conquer Cancer Foundation — the Breslows rely on an all-volunteer organization. “There’s a certain point where…dealing with hospitals or funding grants or dealing with book keeping… prevents us from cultivating relationships,” Breslow notes. “We’re lucky to have financial, legal counsel, marketing, a medical director — all of whom have the same passion and investment in the product.”
As a Connecticut native, Breslow is bringing that passion to New England and Red Sox Nation. “Boston is widely recognized as a hub for medical research and treatment. There aren’t many better places to have an organization that is rooted in support for research and treatment…our donor base has appreciated that our dollars are going toward meaningful work in their communities.”
Breslow’s sister, Lesley? A survivor, mother of two, and a credit to groundbreaking treatment options developed every day to help young people fight cancer. The Strike 3 Foundation continues to support research and treatment to stop cancer in its tracks just as Craig Breslow makes his pitch, stranding inherited runners and sending opposing hitters back to the dugout in disgust.
Tickets for Sip Happens can be purchased here.
For more information on the Strike 3 Foundation, visit www.strike3foundation.org.