"One person can make all the difference in the world." It's a phrase Scranton/Wilkes-Barre pitcher Geoff Geary is all too familiar with.
In a mid-season slump last year, the 26-year-old reliever for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons credited one person for his turnaround – his best friend Eric. Eric is afflicted with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease - a disease that progressively weakens his muscles and leads to paralysis and is always fatal.
"Eric told me I wasn't playing for myself anymore," Geary said. "I'm playing for him. He said that if I quit, then he quits…it really hit home."
Geary honored his friend's wish and took to the mound with a new attitude- "there's more to life than baseball."
He pitched well the rest of the season, bewildering batters from mid-July to mid-August. Geary tossed 19.1 consecutive innings of scoreless baseball and, in one span allowing just one unearned run in 31 innings.
"He pitched great last year, Red Barons manager Marc Bombard said. "If you give him the ball he's going to throw strikes."
After the season, Geary eventually made his way back to family and friends in San Diego, California. But he found himself spending most of his time with Eric.
"My family would always joke with me because I was always hanging out with Eric," Geary said.
The two would relax by the ocean and enjoy one of their favorite hobbies, salt-water fishing.
"Eric loves to salt water fish," Geary said. "The fish are just so alive and so full of energy, it's what keeps him going."
As Eric's battle with ALS continues, Geary remains active in trying to help. He played a major role in last year's ALS/Red Barons Autograph Party and Auction at Lackawanna County Stadium.
"I really got involved last year because of Eric," Geary said. "I called everyone I knew in the baseball community and everyone I didn't know to donate stuff for the event."
The auction was a success, raising almost $40,000 for ALS research. In addition, Geary remains in contact with the ALS chapter in Philadelphia and is trying to organize a new division back home in San Diego.
But Geary still works towards his promise to Eric- making it in the big leagues.
"I just want to be successful," Geary said. " I want to work to get up there and then work to stay, if I come back down, I'll work my way back up again."
It's this attitude that has transformed Geary into a successful pitcher. So far this year he is 5-1 and boasts a 2.43 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched. After a few rough outing at the start of the season he has a 1.85 ERA in his last 15 appearances.
"I always told my parents I wanted to be in an Advil commercial like Nolan Ryan," Geary joked. "That would be great."
The perfect medicine for Geary right now is to continue pitching the way he has. If he does, the majors could call soon and that would make all the difference to an ailing friend who once breathed life into a struggling pitcher.