Ohio State baseball players patiently stood single file yesterday on their day off, waiting to get into the lounge that is across the hall from their clubhouse. Usually, a trip to the lounge means cake and cookies baked by someone’s mother or watching a ballgame or videotape on the flat-screen television.
This time, it was an effort to see whether anyone is a candidate for a bone-marrow transplant for teammate Zach Farmer. The freshman pitcher from Piketon, Ohio, learned two weeks ago that he has myeloid leukemia.
Senior captain Tim Wetzel, who has been a potential donor on the national bone-marrow transplant list for 18 months, told coach Greg Beals it would be a good idea to recruit the team. Farmer has had his first round of chemotherapy at The Ohio State James Cancer Hospital. He’ll be eligible for a bone-marrow transplant if he goes into remission.
Thirty-seven team members, including Beals, signed consent forms, filled out a short personal history and swabbed their cheeks with four Q-Tips from a DNA testing kit to see whether they are a match for Farmer or anyone else in the nation.
“As soon as we learned Zach’s diagnosis, I told Coach about this," said Wetzel, an outfielder from Mayfield Heights, Ohio. “I’ve been on the national registry for a year-and-a-half. One of my classmates at Ohio State had a friend’s mom who needed a transplant. I wasn’t a match for her, but I was a match for someone else a year later. I did all the testing. I was told the man didn’t need the transplant. Hopefully, he was in remission."
Wetzel is on schedule to graduate next December with a degree in nutrition and plans to apply to medical school. He said that Farmer’s illness has united the team.
“Everyone was on board with this," he said. “This puts the game of baseball into perspective. This is more about the game. Winning and losing is important, but right now Zach is in a battle for his life. We’re trying to help get him through this."
Local Be The Match community engagement representative Marshall Brown said that 37 players and coaches were tested.
The Ohio State baseball team is encouraging those interested in registering to log on to join.marrow.org//Zach or wait until Thursday to log on to ZF11.org when the site opens. The latter site stands for Zach Farmer and his uniform No.11.
“People can keep up with Zach and donate to the cause," Beals said. “They also can go to my Twitter account -- @bealsy9 -- for information and updates."
There will be bone-marrow donation testing at the Fawcett Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday.
Beals is proud of his players.
“We’re trying to support our teammate and brother Zach Farmer," he said. “We’re also trying to get participation in the registry. Hopefully, we get a match for Zach. What he is latching on to is being back in this dugout and playing for Ohio State. He signed up to be a Buckeye, and there is a common threat. It is voluntary. We didn’t say, ‘We need to do this.’ It was a no-brainer for the guys in the locker room."
Beals intended to visit Farmer yesterday. He expected to see a tired young man because of the chemotherapy.
“He knows this is going to be a fight," Beals said.
Brown was ecstatic about getting so many potential candidates for bone-marrow donation.
“This helps increase our chances of finding donors for more than one person," he said. “These guys come from all over. Diversity is a key. These guys can match someone for more than 40 years. Our biggest target is 18- to 44-year-old donors. That’s who our transplant centers ask us to specifically recruit for a drive like this because they give us the best transplant outcome."
The DNA samples and information from the Ohio State baseball team will be sent to a processing center in Minneapolis today. The players should be on the national registry within four to six weeks.
Brown said bone-marrow donation can take three to four hours. It’s a surgical outpatient procedure that involves anesthesia.
“One lady who donated went out and completed her Christmas shopping,’’ he said. “There is some soreness for a few days, but look what you are doing (for the cause)."