CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The spirits of a local man battling an unthinkable cancer diagnosis were lifted recently thanks to two MLB teams, two baseballs and a friend willing to do whatever it takes.
Brad Franzen is a life-long Reds fan from Northern Kentucky. The 25-year-old and his wife were new homeowners and had just begun thinking about kids when he began to feel off.
The diagnosis? Stage-4 colon cancer.
“It was in November,” Franzen told FOX19 NOW on Monday. “And originally, they gave me like a five-percent chance of five-year survivability. So, that’s tough to hear as a 25-year-old.”
Over the next several months, Franzen would endure unending doctor visits, exhaustive treatments and multiple surgeries.
His experience weighed heavy on the heart of his college friend at the University of Louisville, Jacob Rogers.
Rogers currently lives in Miami and is a devoted fan of the Baltimore Orioles, whose first baseman, 29-year-old Trey Mancini, beat stage-3 colon cancer in early 2020.
Rogers tweeted at the Orioles several times to no avail: “Nobody responded. Got nothing,” he said.
Then the Orioles came to Marlins Park, and it seemed like kismet.
“The night before the game, I couldn’t sleep,” Rogers said. “I knew there was something telling me, like, there’s a really cool opportunity here.”
Rogers waited behind the Orioles’ dugout with a hand-written note. When the moment was right, he showed it to an Orioles coach.
Said Rogers, “Trey [Mancini] came out eventually, super excited, with a smile on his face.”
The first baseman also came out with an autographed baseball. Rogers wasted no time tweeting an image of the ball to Franzen as the 25-year-old lay in his hospital bed more than 1,000 miles away.
“I was feeling kind of down because I was, you know, I was more sore than I thought I would be,” Franzen recalled. “And then, you know, just seeing this on Twitter, it perked me up. You can ask my wife, too. Like, I think my demeanor completely changed after I saw that.”
The Reds saw it too, and they kicked in with a baseball signed by another first baseman: Joey Votto.
“It does provide you with energy, and it does make a difference,” Franzen said. “When you know that people are praying for you, people are supporting you. It’s been definitely a huge blessing the past couple of days, it’s been awesome.”
Franzen’s odds of survival are now up to 40 percent, according to his doctors.
As Franzen awaits a major surgery in ten days’ time that could remove all the cancer cells, Rogers is happy to have lifted his friend’s spirits.
“To see how excited he is and how excited he’s been is the coolest part,” he said.
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