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Former White Sox minor leaguer fighting cancer one day at a time

Cary resident Rick Carone takes batting practice with the San Francisco Giants last year at AT&T Park as part of his foundation's BP For A Cause initiative to help raise money for cancer research. (Photo courtesy of Rick Carone)

Rick Carone was given six months to live when he was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2013.

Carone, who lives in suburban Cary and who spent parts of four seasons as a White Sox minor-league catcher, vowed to make the most of each day he had left. But sensing Carone could use an emotional lift, former Sox designated hitter Adam LaRoche – then with the Nationals – invited Carone to take batting practice with the Nationals at Wrigley Field.

But Wrigley was only the first stop of a journey that has allowed Carone to use his love for baseball to raise money to find a cure for the disease he has lived with for the past three years.

“(Taking batting practice) took me back to my time when I played – putting on the uniform again, smelling that grass and being on that field again,” Carone said this week. “It was just one of those things that spoke to me and inspired me.”

Since his visit to Wrigley, Carone has hit with the Giants at AT&T Park and the Marlins in Miami as part a BP For A Cause program that has raised nearly $43,000 for cancer research. In both cases, the Giants and Marlins have matched donated funds and have also designated money raised through their respective Strike Out Cancer initiatives for The Team Carone Foundation.

Carone, 45, continues to undergo chemotherapy treatments in his on-going fight against cancer. But like he did following his diagnosis, Carone makes the most of the chances he is given.

“This keeps me going – it keeps me alive,” Carone said. “It keeps me busy, it keeps my mind busy….It’s emotional. I have to catch my breath after a few swings.”

Carone will take batting practice with the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on Sept. 6 before traveling to Miller Park in Milwaukee to hit with the Brewers on Sept. 22.

All proceeds raised towards a $10,000 goal will go directly to Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. This year’s efforts, which has raised more than $6,600, will honor McKai Malooley, a 1-year-old from Carone’s hometown of Cary who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, rhabdomysarcoma. In McKai’s case, the cancer – which affects the muscles and soft tissue – was discovered in the boy’s leg, but has since spread throughout his body.

As the father of two girls, Carone said the young boy’s diagnosis hit home and gave him another reason to use his foundation’s BP For A Cause program to help others. Like Carone did three years ago, McKai faces an uncertain future, which has inspired Carone to continue to use baseball as a means to raise money to fund cancer research.

Carone hopes to have McKai and his family with him at U.S. Cellular Field when he hits with the Sox next month as a guest of closer David Robertson, whose father-in-law recently passed away after battling pancreatic cancer.

For Carone, it represents the next step in his journey.

“I’m not good at a lot of things, but I can still hit a baseball,” Carone said. “I think God has put me in this spot right here, right now to give back.

“When I surpassed that six-month (life expectancy) and then one year and Adam had me out to hit (at Wrigley), then it was two years, I was like, ‘hey – I’m obviously here for a reason.’”

To donate, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/bp-for-a-cause

For more information on The Team Carone Foundation, visit: http://www.teamcaronefoundation.org

Follow me on Twitter @JeffArnold_.