Blogs > The Best of Don Seeley's Columns

Former Mercury sports editor Don Seeley passed away in June 2013 from a heart attack. For more than a decade Seeley wrote about local sports. Featured here are his columns that were previously printed in The Mercury.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Step up to the plate against cancer

Bonnie Goodhart sat up in her chair, put her elbows on the picnic table, rested her chin in her cupped hands, and stared deep into the darkened woods some 20-30 yards away.

It was early evening and, except for an occasional bzzz-and-bite from mosquitoes, an engaging one with close friends seated around the table. She listened carefully as everyone talked. For some strange reason, though, she didn't have much to add to the conversations, which ranged from politics to the price of gas and seemed to have covered everything in between.

But when the topic of discussion turned to cancer, Bonnie Goodhart dropped her arms to the table in front of her and sat back in her chair ... innocently commanding everyone's attention.

Bonnie Goodhart, in an often painful day-to-day battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia for five years now, finally had something to say.

Everyone listened, too.

"I just wish there was a way we could help others (with cancer)," she said, a tinge of frustration in her voice. "I just wish there was some way, even if in a very small way it helps people who have to deal with this (cancer)."

Bonnie Goodhart, who has gone well beyond the call of duty in helping raise money for Pottstown's Relay For Life through her own Looking Up relay team, wanted to put her personal touch to something, though.

"And it has to be fun for everyone involved," she added.

In a matter of minutes, Bonnie Goodhart - with some help from her husband Jim, a former baseball standout at Pottstown and longtime American Legion and AAU coach - came up with a game plan.

Actually a game.

A softball game, Baseball For Life, as she's called it.

"We want everyone to help us hit a home run against cancer," her husband said.

The all-day, one-pitch tournament - which costs just $25 to be part of - will be held morning, noon and night Saturday, Oct. 11 at Ringing Rocks Park.

And, as Bonnie Goodhart reminds anyone willing to listen, it is a day for everyone.

So, forget about your age, you're invited. If you're able to stroll to the plate, you're invited. If you're strong enough to swing a bat, you're invited. If you're capable of walking, strutting, jogging or running to first base, you're invited.

If you're willing to keep your pride under wraps after every hit and willing to smile or even laugh after every miss, you're invited.

And invited with open arms.

Yes, teams are invited, and individuals wanting to play will be placed on teams. Everyone will be guaranteed at least two games and, yes, some hardware will be presented to the winning (or luckiest) team.

This won't be a day defined by hits, runs and errors, though.

Sure, you can bring your own bat and glove, if you wish. You are encouraged to bring your own beverages and refreshments, perhaps an extra dish or two (and the recipe, of course) to share with others under the pavilion throughout the day.

But what Bonnie Goodhart wants you to bring more than anything else is a big smile, enthusiasm ... and the determination to make this the one day you want your family and all your friends to circle on the calendar every year.

* * *

No one is more serious or more determined to fight cancer than Bonnie Goodhart.

Back in December of 2003, her Christmas present was a doctor's diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). That's just another big word or another strange form of cancer for people whose own lives or family and friends lives haven't been affected by cancer. It's just another big word or strange form of cancer for people who can't even begin to comprehend the pain, sickness and torture cancer inflicts on its victims.

Other than her husband and a couple of close friends, hardly anyone knows that Bonnie Goodhart has fought through an assortment of aches and pain as well as sickness almost every day since being diagnosed with CLL.

Four times she has been forced to undergo a nauseating chemotherapy arrangement - 6-8 hours a day over a three-day period for eight straight weeks. She has had a number of six-week radiation treatments. And she gets very uncomfortable reactions to the medications prescribed to help her through the sickness and pain.

Her fight is waged primarily at Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. But she's been forced to go round after round with it at Fox Chase, University of Pennsylvania and Temple hospitals in Philadelphia, and also at Sloan-Kettering cancer centers throughout the tri-state area.

The medical bills mount well beyond what most could conceive.

"Outrageous," her husband said. "We have a pretty good insurance plan, and even though (the bills) still mount up they don't hit us nearly as hard as they do most people. That's what concerns Bonnie, and that's another reason we hope this will be a success so we can help cancer victims with their finances in addition to the giving money to Relay For Life."

Every little bit helps ... and helping others is all Bonnie Goodhart wants to do.

* * *

If Bonnie Goodhart could take a baseball bat and beat cancer to a gruesome death, she would. Others, who have waged their own battles and endured a pathetic quality of life to survive as well as those who have lost family and friends to cancer, would gladly join her.

Instead, she's hoping to form her own swat team(s). She's hoping people will be willing to put up $25, pick up a softball bat and hit a home run against cancer.

Just by word of mouth over the past week, many have already shown their willingness to do just that. Some you'll know, some you won't ... but you'll get to know by day's end.

Some will surely bring some drama to the games, others (off the record, of course) will bring humor.

The Cotellese Clan, which has unloaded its share of long balls through the years, is coming. A few people from PMMC's Cancer Center and Brookside Family Restaurant are cooking up teams.

Then there is the real over-the-hill gang ... which one can only wonder who'll be kind enough to put them in their lineup. Lew Hoffman, a player-coach out of the Casey Stengel mold with his 55-and-Over teams, is lining up a team or two. Southpaw Barry Peterman, who still pitches in an Over-50 baseball league up in Allentown, is expected to throw (though his off-speed arc to the plate is questionable). A couple of his old (only 58 years old, that is) Pottstown teammates - Fred Faison and Jeff Jackowski - will be there. Faison still runs like the wind (then gasps for wind when he gets to where he's going), while Jackowski reportedly hopes to get a little help from the wind during his dash down the line. St. Pius X boys basketball coach Randy Reber, also 58, should be able to grab a weak grounder or two after surviving all the tracers served up by Paul Favinger when the two played for Pottsgrove back in the late 60s.

Word around town is that The Hill School girls softball team is trying to get into the scheme of things, too. Hmmm... wonder if Kevin Kirby and his Owen J. Roberts girls or Tim Hughes and his Spring-Ford girls know about that (hint, hint)?

"We've gotten a lot of responses already just by word of mouth," Jim Goodhart said. "Hey, if we get too many people or teams, we'll find a second field, a third one if we have to."

"Isn't it exciting," Bonnie Goodhart added.

It is.

And, God willing, it will continue to be for Bonnie Goodhart, who is determined to stick around and see her Baseball For Life produce countless home runs against cancer.

* * *

Registration forms for Baseball For Life are available by writing Bonnie Goodhart at 1407 Glasgow Street, Pottstown, Pa. 19464, or by e-mail at The deadline to register is Sept. 27.


Don Seeley is the sports editor of The Mercury ... and a cancer survivor.

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