Lester not just baseball hero

Boston Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester is only 24-years-old, but the left-handed hurler has already accomplished things that would make those enshrined at the baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown sit up a take notice.

Lester is a World Series hero, starting and winning game No. 4 of last year's Fall Classic to give the Red Sox the sweep of the Colorado Rockies.

Monday night he realized every pitcher's dream by mowing down the Kansas City Royals on his way to throwing the first no-hitter in the Major Leagues this year.

Back in the 1970s, I used to pretend I was Bob Gibson or Steve Carlton when I played in my backyard.

In my own mind, nobody could hit my blazing fastball or nasty curveball as Pete Rose, Reggie Jackson, or any number of sluggers from the era, went down swinging on my way to hurling an imaginary no-hitter.

But that was as close as I would ever come to throwing one of baseball's most sought after prizes.

Not Lester.

When he struck out Alberto Callaspo to end the game, he put himself in elite company.

No-hitters simply don't come along every day.

Everything has to fall just right to throw a no-hitter in the big leagues.

There even has to be a little bit of luck, such as center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury making a diving catch off of Jose Guillen in the fourth inning to take away a sure base hit and preserve Lester's date with history.

But no matter how many more wins or awards Lester racks up in his career, his biggest accomplish is that of cancer survivor.

Lester's game was nearly derailed before it got started in 2006 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Chemo, and perhaps the blessings of God, put him back on the baseball mound, and now he has turned into one of the most inspirational players in the game,

"It was a long road back," Lester said after his no-hitter Monday. "It was tough mentally and tough physically to go out and pitch every five days. It was a long road. I'm just glad that I'm here at this moment right now, and in five days I'll go and pitch again."

Lester is simply one of those feel good stories that doesn't come along every day.

So often, we are bombarded by headlines of drugs, domestic abuse or other tragedies where a once promising athlete has run into trouble.

Lester's story reminds us how fragile life can be. He should be an inspiration.

Cancer is not funny. My sister is a six-year breast cancer survivor and counts her blessings every day.

She is my inspiration.

Although I have never had to battle cancer, my stroke in 2006 made me take a different look at life.

Like Lester, my sister and I got a second chance.

Little things don't get me down like they used, and I find inspiration in Lester and those who have turned tragedy into triumph.

Hopefully, Lester has made us all realize we too can overcome adversity when the chips are down.

That's what makes Lester and people like my sister heroes.

(Doug Gorman is sports editor of the Clayton News-Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dgorman@news-daily.com)