HAMILTON — Kyle Angelow’s name may not be widely known in Canadian baseball circles just yet, but perhaps after this Sunday it will be.
The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher for the McMaster Marauders has organized the nation’s first ever BaseBald event, an initiative to raise money to help children with cancer.
Set to take place following McMaster’s double-header against Laurier at Bernie Arbour Stadium on Sunday (at approximately 6:00 p.m.), the event will see the entire Marauders roster, as well as head coach Wayne Gowan, trade in their bats and gloves for clippers and razors to shave their heads in support of kids battling the disease.
“I interned with Childhood Cancer Canada this summer and they told me about this cool event that’s been going on in the States,” Angelow said following practice at Volunteer Park on Thursday.
“They asked me if I wanted to run one, and I said ‘absolutely!’”
Originating at the University of North Carolina after catcher Chase Jones was diagnosed with a brain tumor two years ago, BaseBald has since grown into an international fundraising phenomenon.
For Angelow, the event benefits a cause that hits close to home.
“I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma when I was five years old,” the Mississauga native said. “It took a few months to actually get diagnosed because they originally thought it was growing pains, but everything moved pretty quickly after that.
“By the time I was six, I had already had two 13-hour-long reconstructive surgeries. They had to remove my femur and replace it with my fibula from my other leg.”
All the while, Angelow underwent painful rounds of chemotherapy.
“I lost all my hair and I felt really sick,” he said, recalling the unpleasant memories of his youth. “I lost a full year of growth so when I was seven years old I was only 45 pounds.
“I was just a really little guy, but eventually I got healthy.”
Though rehabilitation was slow and painful, the second-year McMaster student maintains his love of sport motivated him to get through the tough times.
“What kept me going was that I always wanted to play sports,” he said while icing his shoulder after a throwing session. “My family is so into sports. My brother got a hockey scholarship in the States and my sister’s always played soccer.
“I started playing baseball when I was 13, after years of rehab.”
Having a fibula in place of his femur has left Angelow’s right leg substantially shorter than his left, a problem he deals with by wearing a special shoe lift on the mound.
Other ramifications from his surgeries have been more complex.
“I don’t have a hip joint so my mobility is definitely limited,” he said. “My strength is limited too since they had to remove a lot of tissue and muscle.
“I’ve basically taught myself to pitch in my own way. I’ve had to modify everything.”
Despite these challenges, Angelow has excelled at the OUA level. McMaster pitching coach, Matt Mills, attributes this to his enthusiasm for sport.
“Kyle’s obviously very dedicated to the game of baseball to go through everything he’s gone through and still be able to play at a very high level today,” Mills said. “He’s worked really hard to adjust to what his body allows him to do.
“He’s learned how to adjust things like his balance and stride length to accommodate his physicality, but above all else, he’s got a very fluid throwing motion and very strong arm.”
Aside from pitching, Angelow has proven to be quite skilled in raising awareness for cancer research, as his teammates’ unwavering support for BaseBald indicates.
Outfielders Colin Campbell and Paul Saville are among those on the Marauders roster who have jumped at the opportunity to help their teammate. Campbell, a native of Mississauga, has already raised over $1,000, while Dundas-born Saville has collected nearly $900.
“It’s amazing that guys like Colin and Paul are going out and doing their own thing,” Angelow said as a smile stretched across his face. “It’s great to have their support and to have people understand even though they weren’t necessarily touched as close as I was.
“It’s hard for people to understand what cancer’s like unless it’s affected them … It’s not just about saving lives; it’s also about cancer research. I have long term effects [from chemotherapy] too, so the cancer research is about finding safer treatments.”
Watching the team come together in preparation for the event has moved McMaster’s pitching coach, who is new to the Marauders staff this season.
“I think it’s really inspiring,” Mills said. “It speaks to the true team atmosphere that we have here.”
For Angelow, it goes beyond that.
“It’s amazing how supportive [the team] has been,” he said. “It’s so nice to see that they’re willing to shave their heads because kids going through that don’t have a choice.”
For more information on Sunday’s BaseBald, including a list prizes to be raffled off, you can visit the event’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/events/165029020288413/ or the McMaster University section of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation website: http://www.stbaldricks.org/teams/mypage/78995/2012
Follow Melissa on Twitter: @ThrowinSmoke