Battling Lung Cancer, Pitcher Takes the Mound for the Love of the Game


CATEGORY: News and Community

Dennis Henderson stood on the pitcher's mound, wound up and let the ball fly toward the catcher. The moment, pitching at a professional baseball game, was long in coming, and one the 54-year-old Conneaut, Ohio resident would cherish.
Henderson, who is battling metastatic lung cancer, shook off a case of nerves before taking the mound on a gorgeous spring day, May 19, throwing out an honorary first pitch as Lake County Captains' baseball fans applauded. After being featured on the Jumbotron, he trotted off to meet players and the Captain's mascot, Skipper, before heading back to his seat to enjoy traditional baseball fare and watch the Captains, the A-Level farm team for the Cleveland Indians, take on the Dayton Dragons. 

Henderson, the father of Kevin, 13, and 4-month-old Kaytlyn, is under the care of Hospice of the Western Reserve's Ashtabula team. He attended the game with Kevin, his son's friend and his wife Pam Monroe, traveling to and from the game in a limousine. 

"This is great; really exciting," Henderson said, donning a Cleveland Indians jersey. "My family loves baseball. My son plays and my father (former reporter for the News-Herald and the editor of the Star Beacon, Bud Henderson) played for the Pittsburgh Pirates farm team in Indianapolis."

He was offered the opportunity to make the first pitch after his Hospice of the Western Reserve care team, including volunteer service manager Sue Legg and social worker Carol Paine heard him talk about his love of baseball. "I was telling them how much I like baseball and how I coached for 10 years," Henderson said.

The event is one of numerous "Moment to Remember" events the nonprofit agency coordinates regularly to provide enjoyment, fulfill special wishes and enhance quality of life for those receiving care.

"He shared how this was a life Long dream of his," Paine, who accompanied the foursome to the game, said. She added it was one more memory for the family.

The 1979 Jefferson High School graduate played for an Eastlake travel team as a pitcher. His skills were significant enough that he was being scouted by the Cleveland Indians—his all-time favorite baseball team— until he injured his arm. Henderson also coached in the Conneaut Local Youth Organization for 10 years, including his son's team.

Before taking the mound, he reminisced about his time pitching curveballs and 92-MPH fastballs for his high school-aged travel team and until five years ago, as a star pitcher for his softball team.

"My favorite pitcher? Randy Johnson," Henderson said, recounting the infamous incident when the Arizona Diamondbacks' pitcher accidentally hit—and killed—a bird with a pitch during a spring training game.

Settling back in his seat after the pitch, he soaked in the spring sunshine and expressed gratitude. "I need to thank my hospice team; they've been great. And the Captains, also," he said. 

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