NCAA baseball: Mike Kent of Clemson’s biggest save came away from the diamond

CLEMSON, S.C. The cells Mike Kents own cells, the donated stem cells now coursing through his stricken brothers body are working just fine. Thats what they tell him. His family and the doctors are careful to shield Mike, just 21 years old, from most of the bad news regarding Matts battle with Hodgkins lymphoma and lately there has been plenty of it. But they always make sure to tell him: Your cells are doing great.

It can mess with your head, being a stem-cell donor to your own brother. If something goes wrong, it is only natural to wonder if it was your fault. Were your cells bad? And Mike Kent, a 2009 Washington Post All-Met selection at West Springfield High, has enough on his plate right now not just Matts three-year fight with cancer, but also his own baseball career at Clemson to be saddled with all that guilt. Clemson opens play in the NCAA regionals at Columbia, S.C., on Friday.

(Family photo) - Mike Kent, right, poses with his brother, Matt, when Mike was a high school senior and a pitcher for the West Springfield, Va, baseball team.

Because now, Matts liver is failing, the veins breaking down from the high doses of chemotherapy and radiation. He floats in and out of consciousness in the intensive-care unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, unaware of his surroundings.

Ill be honest: Ive asked them, Is he going to survive this? said Susan Kent, Matt and Mikes mother, a look of sheer resolve on her face. Of course, the doctors wont answer.

Such an awkward spot for a mother who had raised two boys on her own. One of them, a college sophomore, is playing out his dream, preparing to pitch in college baseballs national championship tournament, his life spread out before him. The other son, 26 years old and a late-bloomer who was just starting to get his life in order before the diagnosis, is fighting for his life.

How do you handle such a fate? You play up the positives, thats how. You visit Matt in the hospital Matt being the one who taught Mike the game of baseball, in the absence of a father and you tell him, in great detail, about all of Mikes solid outings at Clemson: the scoreless relief appearances, the saves. And you spare him the gory details about the ugly ones the three-run homers, the bases-loaded walks, the losses.

And you give Mike the barest of details about Matts setbacks: There are some complications. Some side effects. But while Mike knows most of the more pertinent information the liver failure, the ICU you emphasize what is important, the thing Mike needs to know: Your cells are doing great.

Throwing extra innings

The injections, the doctors told Mike, would make him feel like he had the flu. The drug, Neupogen, was being given in eight doses, spread over four days to produce and stimulate white blood cells in his body in preparation for the stem cell transplant. One thing he shouldnt try to do, they told him, was play baseball.

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NCAA baseball: Mike Kent of Clemson’s biggest save came away from the diamond

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