A.J. Pollock creates lasting connection with teenage fan fighting cancer
Via ABC Arizona
PHOENIX – It began when A.J. Pollock was asked to sign a baseball for a sick teenager. Little did he know fulfilling that favor would have a lasting impact.
For 16 years, Sammy Cibulka lived for sports.
Then one day, it took all he had to simply live.
“I was diagnosed with a sarcoma in my right shoulder,” Cibulka explained. “From then on I was living that sick person life.”
Cibulka went through 48 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.
He lost most of his strength and had to take a leave of absence from school. Suddenly his life became a series of curve balls.
Sometime in the middle of Cibulka’s treatment, a family friend mentioned his cancer battle to Diamondbaks Centerfielder A.J. Pollock.
Pollock was nursing a serious injury himself.
“That was the beginning of it, really,” Pollock said. “Right when I met him and met his family, I was hooked. I wanted to hang out again, if he wanted to hang out with me.”
The pair connected immediately.
“From the moment we met, we just talked baseball, just stuff like that,” Cibulka said. “It was good to get my mind off certain things.”
Pollock invited Sammy to games. He visited him when he was laid up at home, and at the hospital during his intense treatments.
The pair built a bond they both needed.
“You said I was a mentor for Sammy,” Pollock said, “Sammy really, really helped me a lot with the injury and keeping things in perspective.”
Cibulka is now 17 and cancer-free.
There’s no trophy or medal to show for his fight, but instead, a friendship.
One formed during the toughest game of his life.
“A.J. is a professional athlete, but he’s more than that,” Cibulka said. “He kind of helped me understand that things will get better and whether you think it or not, things will continue to, you’ll see things get better.”
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