Buckeyes Rally Around Ill Teammate

When confronted with adversity, the Ohio State baseball team has chosen to fight back. With teammate Zach Farmer fighting leukemia, the Buckeyes signed up en masse to the national donor registry Monday afternoon, and BuckeyeSports.com has the story.

Monday afternoon wasn't the first time Tim Wetzel has been involved with Be The Match, but this time, it's personal.

Wetzel's Ohio State baseball teammate Zach Farmer was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia two weeks ago, and as soon as he was, Wetzel had an idea of something he wanted to do to support both Farmer and the community at large.

"I was involved with Be The Match two years ago," the senior outfielder said. "I registered like these guys just did and then I ended up being a match of a patient about a year later. That was an emotional thing for me, and it was really cool and I want other people to experience that.

"As soon as I heard (Farmer) had cancer, I was like, I have a thing to do. I told (head coach Greg) Beals and he told me to get to work and that's exactly what I did."

The result was that Wetzel's teammates and coaches on the Buckeye squad sat in the Bill Davis Stadium clubhouse Monday afternoon listening to Be The Match community engagement representative Marshall Brown laying out what they were signing up for – the chance to save a life, perhaps Farmer's but more likely one of the close to 12,000 patients in need of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant in this country.

After filling out a few forms, each Buckeye swabbed the inside of his mouth with cotton swabs and inserted the samples in an envelope, each of which will be sent to Minneapolis for testing. The Buckeyes will then be added into the national donor registry and perhaps one day in the future be called upon to donate to those in need.

Wetzel didn't actually end up donating a few years ago, as he got a call that he was unneeded – "I'm hoping he kicked cancer's butt and he didn't need my help," Wetzel said of the patient – but he knows that if he were called upon, he'd be ready.

The same now can be said of his teammates.

"It just proves how selfless these guys are," Wetzel said. "There's 12,000 other patients out there and they're just as important (as Zach). The commitment, yeah, it's big, but it's not really that big. You get a little outpatient surgery and you're back on your feet the next day. If you can do that to save somebody's life, then it's definitely worth it."

That echoed the message of Brown, who made it clear to point out that donating bone marrow isn't that harrowing process it once was. In fact, close to 80 percent of donors must only donate stem cells in a process Brown compared to donating blood. The other 20 percent go through a one-day outpatient procedure, and most are ready to get back to their lives a day later.

"18- to 44-year-old donors is what our transplant centers have asked us to specifically recruit at a drive like this because those donors of that age provide the best post-transplant outcomes," Brown said. "When you work in the community at Ohio State, you get younger donors, who are hopefully going to be in the registry for 30 to 40 years, and a lot of the diversity that comes with working with a community like Ohio State. It meets a lot of our needs, and the better the chance and the better the opportunity that over the next 30 to 40 years they match somebody.

"In 10 years, who knows how many of these guys will possibly get a call that they were a match for somebody?"

At the moment, Farmer – a freshman lefthander who led the Buckeyes with six wins at the time of his diagnosis April 29 – continues to undergo treatment at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center.

"This is going to be one of the toughest weekends for him because the first round of chemo is done, so the effects of that are taking place now," Beals said. "This week, his immune system is going to be down a little bit, his fatigue level is going to be up a little bit, but Zach is fully committed to this battle.

"He's otherwise strong. He knows he has support. He has some great support from his family and from his family here in Columbus. It's going to be a challenging week, a tough week, but he knew before we started there were going to be some tough days and it's going to be a fight, and we're very confident in his ability to battle through."

In the meantime, Ohio State continues to do what it can to support Farmer. Orange wristbands with Farmer's initials and his No. 11 on them will be available at the Buckeyes' games Thursday-Saturday vs. Northwestern. By the end of the week, it is hoped that a website – ZF11.org – will be launched that will include more information on Farmer's fight and provide the community a chance to donate both money and sign up to be a donor.

In addition, two more chances for people to sign up for the donor registry will take place on campus, with one set to occur at Saturday's game at Bill Davis Stadium. In addition, Be The Match will give people the chance to sign up for the registry on Thursday at the Fawcett Center.

Be The Match has set up a site for those wishing to get more information at join.marrow.org/zach.

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