Carol Stream native Eric Orze was the type of kid who never got sick. So, when pain in his groin wouldn’t go away in May 2018, the University of New Orleans junior went to the doctor, who delivered the diagnosis he least expected.
“The image I have is just looking down at my right hand and seeing it starting to shake,” Orze said when recalling that visit.
The diagnosis was testicular cancer. Orze’s emotions ranged from laughter to tears as he grasped the news.
After an emotional conversation with his parents on Mother’s Day weekend, his demeanor shifted.
“Within a half hour Eric was like ‘it’s time to move on to next step, we need to have surgery and move on,’” said Eric’s mother Lynn.
Orze had successful surgery that Monday. But later that summer, something on Orze’s skin alarmed his doctor.
“I was in the car and I remember him calling me, and he told me it’s cancer,” Lynn Orze said. “I was like ‘what is going on? How can this be?’”
This time—skin cancer. After four surgeries, Orze was once again cancer free. And after missing a year-and-a-half of baseball, it was time to get back on the mound.
“As soon as that first batter stepped in the box, all that (nervousness) went away, and it was back to playing baseball like the previous 21 years in my life,” Orze said.
The Glenbard North grad went 3-0 with 29 strikeouts in just under 20 innings for New Orleans before the season shut down due to COVID-19. He wasn’t sure if had shown major league scouts enough to be one of the 160 players drafted in June. But by pick 150, he found his answer—the New York Mets selected him in the 5th round.
“Just that wave of emotion hits you, you’re processing so many things,” Orze recalled. “You’re happy, crying, screaming, you don’t know what you want to do because everything crashes together in that moment.”
“I’m in tears just thinking about it now,” Lynn said. “He worked hard for this dream since he was a boy.”
A dream fulfilled after a journey with more than a few curveballs.
But it gave the newest New York Met a new perspective on life.
“I think he’ll tell you the same thing, that cancer was a blessing for him,” said Orze’s dad Rick. “A lot of people have reached out to him through social media, and he’s really inspired by what it’s given him. A platform to use, to help people with that.”
“That’s the coolest thing,” Orze said of having people reach out to him on social media saying he has inspired them. “It’s bigger than me now. It’s not about me anymore, it’s about helping people and giving back doing what I can to better the world. “