Softball teams raise money for coach

May 13 2011 - 11:46pm

Images

ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Woods Cross softball player McKenzie Clark bites her nails during a softball game between Woods Cross High School and Davis High School on Friday at Woods Cross High School. The game was a charity event with Woods Cross playing as the Red Blood Cells and Davis playing as the White Blood Cells to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Utah.
ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Woods Cross’ Kelli Fox tries to connect with the ball during a softball game at Woods Cross High School on Friday.
ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Woods Cross softball player McKenzie Clark bites her nails during a softball game between Woods Cross High School and Davis High School on Friday at Woods Cross High School. The game was a charity event with Woods Cross playing as the Red Blood Cells and Davis playing as the White Blood Cells to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Utah.
ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner 
Woods Cross’ Kelli Fox tries to connect with the ball during a softball game at Woods Cross High School on Friday.

WOODS CROSS -- He calls himself the head coach that never was. On Friday, the team that he never coached played a fundraising game to fight the illness that will someday kill him.

Woods Cross and Davis high schools played a charity softball game Friday to raise money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Utah. The real reason they were playing is Steve Drott.

Four years ago, Drott excitedly accepted the job of head coach of the Woods Cross High School softball team. After 16 years of coaching at Kearns High School, he was ready for a new challenge.

"I wanted to build on what the previous coach did, but I've never got that chance," said Drott, who turns 49 next week.

He spent his first year at Woods Cross assisting head coach Donna Tippetts, who suddenly decided that she wanted another season with her senior class in softball and volleyball. That was fine with Drott, who used the year to familiarize himself with the athletic programs.

But before taking over the softball team a year later, Drott got ill.

After starting to suffer bloody noses, Drott decided to have his blood pressure checked. A month later, doctors told him he was in stage 3 multiple myeloma and that 83 percent of his bone marrow was cancer.

"I didn't have any effects," Drott said. "I was still coaching. I've always been athletic and healthy. I had never broken a bone or gone to the hospital."

Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer like leukemia and lymphoma. The disease basically kills the immune system. The average age of those who are diagnosed with multiple myeloma is 75.

The cancer struck quickly. Months after being diagnosed, Drott caught pneumonia and slipped into a coma. After a month in the coma, doctors were ready to take him off life support. Drott's wife, JoLynn, said no and the doctors tried one last alternative.

Drott's lungs and heart stabilized and he began to wake up.

"It was just hell coming out of it and rehabilitating from it," Drott said.

But he fought and has continued to fight. He goes through chemotherapy at least once a week.

Drott admits that the cancer will likely kill him, but is quick to point out that he has already beaten the odds. The life expectancy after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma is 18 to 30 months.

Drott has already passed that mark.

He's been unable to coach the Woods Cross softball team because the stress and cold weather could cause him to get sick, but he still is teaching biology, marine biology and zoology. He helped with administrative duties for the team, which has had a new head coach each of the past three seasons.

During that time he watched his oldest daughter, Kaylynn, 19, graduate high school and hopes to see his other daughter, Josie, 16, graduate soon. It was those experiences that he was afraid he would not see. Another father-daughter moment he did not want to miss, Kaylynn's wedding, will take place this summer.

"I've been blessed with those two," Drott said. "I'm going to at least get to walk one girl down the aisle."

Drott and his wife will celebrate their 25th anniversary this summer. The couple met on a sidewalk in Tahiti and have been together ever since.

Drott said there are four students at Woods Cross High School who have battled Hodgkin's lymphoma and numerous faculty members who have either dealt with a form of leukemia themselves or with a family member who has the disease. Without knowing it, Drott has been an example to everyone at the school.

That's why students have donated more than $3,000 in the past few weeks for the The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Utah. More donations were received during Friday's game, where Woods Cross High wore red to represent the "Red Blood Cells" and Davis wore white for the "White Blood Cells."

"It's been a real important experience because he's shown me to never back down and to keep battling," said Jaclyn Mills, 18, a senior on the Woods Cross softball team. "It's helped out in my life a lot."

Mills said her team has used that lesson on the field as well.

"If there's a hard team that we're playing, we can just keep battling and always have a great attitude about loving the game," Mills said.

He's also been an example to those who attended Friday's game.

"(Drott) is a pretty exceptional person," said Russell Mills, Jaclyn's father, at the game. "He loves the kids and I think that is what keeps him going."

Drott knows that down the road, the chemotherapy will stop working, but there are new drugs coming out and there is always the option of bone marrow transplants. However, the quality of life after that procedure is very poor.

As for now, Drott has his good days and bad days. Each day, however, his positive attitude is there for everyone to see.

"I've got enough strength and gumption to teach, which was what I was born to do," Drott said. "I'm just going to ride this wave as long as it takes me."

From Around the Web

  +