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OKC RedHawks: Cancer-stricken Tony DeFrancesco ready for some baseball

The RedHawks manager was diagnosed with cancer during spring training. He spent the last six weeks undergoing treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. DeFrancesco returned to the team Tuesday night at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
By Mike Baldwin Published: May 27, 2014

With rain falling at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, a few players watched Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop at one end of the locker room Tuesday afternoon while others munched on a pre-game meal. RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco was in his office.

Diagnosed withcancer during spring training, DeFrancesco said locker room camaraderie is one of things he missed most while undergoing treatment for the disease.

“I’m ready to go, excited to be here,” said DeFrancesco, who returned Tuesday night. “I thank the Lord for allowing me to be back.

“This was all new to me. Cancer affects so many people in this world, and I was one of them. This will make me a stronger person with a different outlook on life.”

After he was diagnosed with an unnamed cancer during spring training in mid-March, DeFrancesco, 51, spent six weeks undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments at the MD Anderson Center in Houston. He then returned to his home in Mesa, Ariz., to recuperate.

“I want to thank the Astros for allowing me to get better and thank my wife and my family for all their support, plus the hundreds of texts and e-mails I received,” DeFrancesco said. “I’ve been doing this 31 years, counting when I played. It’s great to be back.”

Tom Lawless, who has served as interim manager, will remain with the RedHawks to ease the transition. Lawless will then return to his job as the Astros roving infield instructor.

Pitcher Paul Clemens has played for DeFrancesco two different seasons.

“This goes way beyond baseball,” Clemens said. “Just to see him back to work is awesome. The biggest thing is him getting back to health, getting his body right. Right now, baseball takes a backseat to his health while we go out and continue to win ballgames.”

DeFrancesco addressed the team Tuesday afternoon, hours before it played the Omaha Storm Chasers. He told players he watched many of their first 52 games on the internet.

After providing details of his experience, DeFrancesco said it would be the last time he would talk about his cancer; asking players to focus on baseball.

“To go through what he went through shows the kind of person he is, how he won’t give up,” said pitcher Asher Wojciechowski. “He’s a fighter, a competitor. It’s great to have him back.”

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