David A. Jolie: Sports life is well lived and it is a gift of life
My friend, Dan Lin, has long been a great athlete when we played softball, played golf and mingled with a little basketball. He was a great striker and fielder on the softball field, a playmaker with a great throw on the court and a good stick on the greens.
Dan recently passed away and I’m sure he’s already scheduled a few games and matches above. And he probably enjoys an oyster night, as often at Kevin’s restaurant in Kingston.
He and I played in different softball teams. I was with Hoppy’s, and Dan was with Bonner Chevrolet and later Zimnicky’s. I started playing softball as a teenager in the Tirpak League at Lucerne Connolly’s Field, the youngest guy in the league, and that’s where I met Dan, who was a good 20 years older.
Our teams were good and often fought with each other for the championship, but won or lost, then we teamed up to have a great time, share stories and joke about the next meeting of our teams. From Dan I learned a lot about good sportsmanship, teaching everything possible and having fun.
There were basketball courts nearby, and after one of our softball games Dan noticed two basketball players. He looked at me and said, “We’re going to challenge these guys.” Both players were tall, at least six feet four. I thought we couldn’t beat them, and doubted we would even be able to keep the score. But then I didn’t know what a great shooter Dan was and what he played at Wilkes when he was in college. I kept feeding him the ball, he was making throws and we won.
Another time, while playing golf at the Wyoming Valley Country Club, I was confronted with a long, heavy, curved blow that I somehow managed to make. Dan teased me that it was a light blow, and to prove it, he threw the ball to the same spot and rolled it into the cup.
He has been active in the community, including Kingston Baseball, YMCA Youth Basketball, American Legion, Wilkes-Barre Jaycees, Plymouth Rotary Club and Forty Fort Lions Club. There was a lot of laughter with Dan around. He was a great guy, he lived a good life and will be bored.
Dan has made a difference for a lot of people and that’s what baseball legend Rod Carew continues to do.
Although Dan was a Yankee fan, Rod Carew was a player he liked. Kerry’s natural ability to strike combined with hard work and a winning attitude led him from Panama and then from the streets of New York to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Elected in the first year of his election with 90.5 percent of the vote (75 percent is required to be elected), he had an impressive career average of 0.328 and 3053 strokes. Kerry was an 18-time rookie of the year in the American League in 1967 and the most valuable player in 1977. He scored more than 0.300 over 15 consecutive seasons and averaged 0.344 over the decade of the 1970s.
Kerry received the Roberto Clemente Prize in 1977 and was a seven-time American League champion. He was honored to have his number 29 resigned by the two teams he played for, the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angeles, and he is in the Hall of Fame of both teams. Since 2016, the batter with the highest average each year in the American League has received the Rod Batman Award AL Batting Championship Award.
While his baseball career was stellar, he made even greater contributions off the field, using his celebrity, time and energy to teach children to play baseball as well as promote bone marrow and organ donation. He became interested in expanding the register of bone marrow donations when his daughter Michelle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant.
Kerry is black with West Indian and Panamanian descent, and Rhoda’s first wife, Michelle’s mother, is white with Russian-Jewish descent. Doctors were unable to find a bone marrow donor matching Michelle’s rare ethnic heritage, and as a result she had an umbilical cord blood transplant that failed. Unfortunately, she passed away in 1996 at the age of 18.
Thanks to Carew’s involvement, the total number of registered bone marrow has increased significantly, as has the number of potential donors of mixed racial and ethnic origin.
Another medical crisis occurred when in September 2015, Carew suffered a massive heart attack. He needed several surgeries and was implanted with an LVAD or left ventricular auxiliary device. LVAD helped his heart rate until he underwent heart and kidney transplant surgery in 2016.
However, the hero of Kerry’s health crisis is Conrad Royland, a young man who previously played in the NFL with the New York Jets and the Baltimore Ravens. Conrad died of a brain aneurysm in 2016 at the age of 29. According to the website of the Conrad Royland Memorial Foundation, “His love of life was exceptional, as was his love of family and friends. Even after his death, Conrad helped save and improve the lives of more than 75 people through successful organ and tissue donations. ”
Conrad attended high school with Kerry’s children, and at the time he even met Rod. Unbelievable, but his heart is now beating in Rod’s chest. The Kerry and Rayland families are connected as they continue to promote the importance of good health, the value of organ donation and a good life.
Kerry and his wife Ronda lead heart health awareness through a company with the American Heart Association. Dan Lynn and his family noted that any donations in his memory could be made by the American Heart Association, 71 North Franklin Street, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701.
We can all do something to make life better for ourselves and others. This is how Dan Lin lived and how the Kerry and Rayland families fit in every day. Dan would be proud of them. I know I am.
David Jolie is an accredited public relations and marketing communications specialist, writer and author.