West Allegheny’s Brown celebrates progress in cancer battle with ‘great moment’ on baseball field

Tuesday, May 10, 2022 | 12:29 AM

Parker Brown sauntered serenely to the plate, wanting to make an impact. He tightened his Bruce Bolt batting gloves, dug his cleats into the batter’s box and stood with confidence. He focused on winning the battle against Hopewell pitcher Zachary Muzy at Wild Things Park.

With a runner on first, Muzy went out of the stretch and threw to Brown. With his West Allegheny teammates cheering him on and realizing the significance of the moment, Brown swung and lined the pitch into center field for a base hit.

On the surface, the hit was just a single in a nonsection game, but for Brown and the team, it was much more.

It was his next step toward recovery.

Hours earlier, Brown finished his last rounds of intense chemotherapy for T-cell lymphoma/leukemia.

The single signified he was winning the battle on and off the field. The line drive proved he was back on the field, and it cemented his legacy at West Allegheny.

Brown said there was no pressure when he stood up to the plate, and he treated it like any other at-bat.

“I’m just like, ‘I just got to see the ball and hit. There’s no pressure. I’m having fun. There’s nothing on my back that’s gonna pull me down,’ ” Brown said. “So I get up there and then I swing on the ball and it ended up being a hit, and it felt amazing. It felt great seeing all the coaches and players as they’re coming up to me after and showing me their support.”

In July 2021, Brown had symptoms of Bell’s palsy, but as his condition declined, he went to the hospital and doctors found a mass in his chest. Brown was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma/leukemia — a rare and aggressive form of cancer that can be found in the blood, lymph nodes, skin or other areas of the body — and was told two to three years of chemotherapy were ahead of him.

The news sent shockwaves around the West Allegheny community, but Brown was most concerned that he wasn’t going to be able to play baseball. His No. 1 goal was to get back on the field.

“My mindset was just how quickly can I get this over with and how am I going to return? Because at the time I had no clue how long this was going to go on for and what kind of effects this would have on me and how it affects baseball,” Brown said.

When word of his diagnosis reached the community, Amanda Rubis launched a GoFundMe page to help cover the treatment. Rubis is Abigayle Brown’s best friend. Abigayle is Parker’s sister.

“We’ve known her family since I’ve been 4, and she really was there for me firsthand, just because I was moving to school,” Abigayle Brown said. “I was in complete shock, as well as everybody else, that she actually had started that page up for us. That was just also such a blessing with his treatments and his medications and that really did cover that.”

The GoFundMe page was just the beginning. Harry Psaros started a fundraiser that sold green T-shirts and hoodies that said “Team Parker” on the front. The fundraiser raised more than $18,000, which led to a green-out for a West Allegheny football game.

Brown saw the support and realized everyone in the community was on his side. The support helped him keep his confidence during treatments.

“They all strung together as one to come out and support. Whether it be just green outs, gifts, baskets or coming to my house to see me,” Brown said. “It all meant so much to me that it just told me that I can’t quit now.”

Brown’s chemotherapy continued into March and into baseball season. Despite the challenges, he made the West Allegheny roster, and on April 22, he was well enough to play and had a plate appearance against Montour.

The senior outfielder entered the game with the bases loaded and drew a walk, his first RBI of the season. He produced for his team for the first time since last season, when he started in numerous games.

Brown admitted he was a little nervous to begin the at-bat, but he had a boost of confidence when he realized he was finally playing again.

Throughout Brown’s senior season, he and coach Bryan Cornell had a difficult time finding times for him to play. Cornell said it was a touch-and-go thing all year. Some days, Brown’s treatment prevented him from playing.

Brown found out Thursday that he was winning his fight and the last intense sessions of chemotherapy were done. Only low-maintenance treatments remain.

On that same day, Cornell knew Brown was able to play and the team had a plan to get him on the field.

“With senior night, I knew what I wanted to do with with Parker and I wanted to try to have him be the last senior recognized,” said Cornell. “It was something that our kids knew about it and we’re all excited.”

Brown pinch-hit and drove one into the outfield for a base hit. He was overwhelmed with joy.

Cornell was proud, too. He thought it was a great moment for Brown and his family as he had a huge hit on senior day.

“I teared up at third base because I knew it was a great moment for him,” Cornell said. “I thought of his parents and it’s just great to see Parker be able to, to come out and not only just play on a single day, but to come out and to get a hit.”

Brown appreciates everyone who has supported him. He said his coaches, his teammates and friends have meant so much to him throughout his journey.

He also said West Allegheny and athletic director Dave McBain were understanding and supportive throughout the process, and he can’t thank them enough.

Brown’s family supported him the most and has been with him for every step. He said they are his biggest supporters.

“They’re always telling me, ‘Hey, you got this. Keep going. Don’t quit,’ ” said Brown. “They always are willing to help me. If I’m feeling really sick, they run out and grab something for me.”

Abigayle, who is graduating from Gannon as an exercise science major, admires Parker’s courage and she sees how much he inspired the community. His courage inspired her, and she was amazed to see him take the field after finishing chemotherapy that day.

“When he came home from treatment, he was a completely different person than he was on the field hours later. He was sick and he wasn’t feeling well at all. He was laying down all day,” she said. “To see him just get up and get out, it was like a completely different person on the field compared to hours earlier, so that’s just been super awesome to be able to not only see the good times, but it makes you appreciate it more because you also saw the bad times too.”

Brown hopes that his story can inspire others. He knows that when someone puts their heart into something, it can turn out better than expected.

“I’d say the base hit just shows that you can be as strong your heart desires,” Brown said. “Put your heart toward it and always be prepared.”

Earlier this year, Brown committed to Allegheny and will study biochemistry. He hopes to work in labs and help find cures to certain cancers. He said his expereince inspired him to help others.

Cornell is excited to see him take on the next level, and he knows that he will be a huge help in the playoffs.

“Parker is an exceptional young man. He’s a very good baseball player. He’s a small, little lefty that plays a great outfield and he’s just an incredible kid,” said Cornell. “Even before he was diagnosed with cancer, I had him in (youth baseball) coming up whenever he was 6, 7 years old and you just knew that Parker was going to be a good baseball player and just a really, really good kid.”

Brown looks forward to his time after high school, but for now, he aims to help his team make a run in the playoffs.

“Hopefully, I can just rebuild the strength that I lost back through in the last nine months,” he said, “and help the team even more on our playoff run.”


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