A World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals might seem a big enough challenge for Boston Red Sox.
However, for pitcher Jon Lester this is yet another huge battle in his life, after recovering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a treatable form of blood cancer.
Newly appointed, Red Sox manager John Farrell admits Lester’s story is the kind of thing you find in a movie.
These are the stories that define players during a World Series, and Farrell shares Lester’s joy at returning to the main stage.
“To see where he’s come today, there’s no question he hasn’t forgotten the journey he’s travelled.
"I think he serves as a living example to many that don’t take the field, but share in a similar journey as he has” said Farrell, who has re-joined Boston from Toronto Blue Jays.
For people all over Boston and the rest of the United States, Lester’s status as a cancer survivor means a lot.
On the road, he invites children with cancer to come to the ballpark and join him on the field before games, because he knows the pain and suffering of the illness.
“Even the word ‘cancer’ brings back the nausea and pain, the fear I felt and the heartbreak I saw in my parents’ faces,” he wrote for CNN earlier this year. “The smells that fill hospitals and the constant tired feeling that comes with treatment are also permanently stuck in my memory.”
The best-of-seven playoff will be played between the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals and the American League champion Boston Red Sox.
This will be the fourth meeting of the teams in World Series’ 109-year history.
Despite the teams being experienced, this is the first time since 2008 that both managers take charge of their first World Series.
Both teams go into the seven-game playoff with an identical league record. Playing a mammoth 162 games over the regular season both teams finished with a record of 97-65.
Lester’s story isn’t the only story of unity throughout the ranks. Since Jonny Gomes turned up to spring training ‘looking a bit scruffy’ a bonding ritual grew, literally.
Gomes allowed his beard to grow out over the course of the season. As his team-mates joined in, the beards became a way for them to bond.
The Cardinals have their own right to win the World Series.
They return for a second time in three years, the third time in eight years and the fourth time in ten years.
St. Louis are also boosted by the return of first baseman, Allen Craig.
The 29-year-old has been out for several months after suffering a sprained foot, and he is relishing the chance of victory this week: “I haven't been playing," Craig said, "but I'm always watching what's going on in the games. During the games, I go back and forth from the video room to the dugout. It's tough to replicate Game 1 of the World Series, but I feel I've done a good job of preparing."
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