How many people can say they came back from cancer to pitch the winning game of the World Series? Not many, but one who can is Jon Lester. A member of the Red Sox since 2006, Lester has been through cancer and battled back to become one of the top Red Sox pitchers of the past few years. Born in Tacoma, Washington, Lester attended Bellarmine Prep and was named Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2000. He was then signed by the Red Sox in the 2002 draft and given $1 million, the highest signing bonus of any second rounder that year. From there, Lester moved through the Red Sox farm system, setting records along the way. He led the AA Eastern league with a 2.61 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 2005, and as a result, was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.
On June 6, 2006, the Lester made his first major league start against the Texas Rangers, a game in which he gave up 5 hits, 3 runs, and struck out 4. Since then, Lester has pitched a no-hitter, the clinching game of the 2007 Series, was fourth in the 2010 American League Cy Young votes, and battled cancer, which is a pretty full career for someone who is only 27. Most recently, Lester partnered with Charity Wines to release a wine label, entitled CabernAce, in support of the Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
This season, Lester has taken his place as one of the top pitchers on the Red Sox roster. He pitched the Opening Day Game against the Rangers, though he did not fare as well as in his first start against them. However, he has come back to resume his position as the ace on the team. The lefty now holds a 2.52 ERA and has 35 strikeouts over 39.1 innings. In his last start against the Baltimore Orioles, he pitched 8 innings, allowed 4 hits, 2 runs, and struck out 5.
While all of these stats make Lester a great choice for my favorite Red Sox player, it’s his perseverance and determination that make him great. When he was battling lymphoma cancer, he never gave up, returning to the game less than two years after being diagnosed. When he began this season on a bad foot, he continued to focus on the game, never letting the fans’ opinions get to him. He has proved himself with a season record of 3-1, adding to a 14-0 career record against the Baltimore Orioles with his most recent win, making it the longest active streak by any pitcher against an opponent.
While the Red Sox may not be having the start they wanted this season, they have great players like Jon Lester who make it easy to be a fan even when the team is losing. Jon Lester makes me proud to be a Red Sox fan, and I look forward to seeing many great things from him the rest of this season.