Mike Schmidt sat down at a picnic table beyond the left-field wall on a sunny morning at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., then scooted over to seek the shade of some palm trees and a light tower.
He wasn’t taking any chances.
The 64-year-old Hall of Famer is recovering from an advanced form of skin cancer that kept him from being a guest instructor with the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training.
Schmidt was in camp Sunday and publicly spoke for the first time about his illness – stage 3 melanoma, and the two operations, radiation and chemotherapy treatments that followed.
“I feel fantastic right now,” he said.
Looking fit and trim, the three-time N.L. MVP is scheduled for a scan today to see how far his recovery has progressed. He still plans to join the Phillies’ television crew to work 13 home Sunday games this season, and to return to camp next year to work with hitters.
“I’m a very lucky man,” he said.
Schmidt felt most fortunate that he got a “crusty little thing” on his hand checked out in August.
A dermatologist decided to give him a full examination and found a mole on his back.
A biopsy revealed the melanoma was more serious than stage 1, and Schmidt spent the following months shuttling between Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his home in Jupiter, Fla.
“I’ve done just about everything I can to destroy the cancer cells in my body,” he said.
Along the way, his voice became raspy, he lost his taste buds and he had trouble concentrating.
He said he also had surgery to remove 35 lymph nodes, wound up with an 8-inch scar and endured episodes of chills and restless leg syndrome.
Schmidt said he is taking medication for depression to help aid his recovery, and is feeling fine.
“Hopefully, stay clean,” he said. “Hopefully, no issues.”
The 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glover spent his whole career with Philadelphia, starting in 1972 and retiring in May 1989.
Even after his career, he had avoided any major health problems.
“The older you get … you still carry some sort of invincibility,” he said, later adding, “the moral of the story is everybody get checked.”
Tigers’ Iglesias will start season on DL
The Detroit Tigers will start the season without Jose Iglesias, though just how long the injured shortstop is sidelined will not be known until after he sees a foot and ankle specialist Tuesday.
General manager Dave Dombrowski announced Sunday that Iglesias will start the season on the disabled list because of painful condition in both shins that affects him when he tries to decelerate.
Iglesias, acquired from Boston in a three-team trade, is considered a potential Gold Glove defensive infielder.
Dombrowski said the 24-year-old Iglesias dealt with the same injury last season, but it did not get better over the offseason and it has bothered him more this spring.
Both Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus said they had neither heard of, nor seen, a player experience this type of injury.
What makes it so frustrating is that Iglesias can do a lot of physical activity without pain.
“If you asked him to go take batting practice right now, or take infield, you would not even be able to really tell there is a problem,” Dombrowski said.
“But it hurts him when he starts to stop running.”
Tanaka allows one run for Yankees
Masahiro Tanaka allowed one run and three hits over 41/3 innings in the New York Yankees’ 7-4 win over the Atlanta Braves in Tampa, Fla.
Tanaka struck out six and walked two.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman left after two innings with a bruised thumb. He took a hard-hit ball off his left hand while playing defense.
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