When David Hess looked at the PET scan that would determine if he could go to spring training, he was disappointed to notice a bright blue mass where the tumor used to be. Hess walked into his appointment the next day expecting to be told he would need radiation or surgery.
The blue mass was his heart, however, working properly. The cantaloupe-sized tumor in his chest had restricted blood flow so severely that Hess’ heart hadn’t shown up on the original scan he was comparing the new one to.
Less than five months after getting cleared to return to baseball at that appointment in late January, Hess is back on the mound for the Florida Complex League Rays.
“[Getting cleared] was the moment of pure relief and just joy, knowing not necessarily that everything was going to be back to normal quite yet, but just knowing that we could kind of start the process of entering back into a little more of a normal life,” he said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast in April.
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Hess made his 2022 season debut on June 7 and has appeared out of the bullpen three times as he works to join the Durham Bulls, Tampa Bay’s Triple-A affiliate. He pitched two scoreless innings and picked up the win in his most recent outing on Monday.
The 28-year-old made his MLB debut with the Baltimore Orioles in 2018 and spent time in the majors with the Rays as well as the Miami Marlins in 2021. He’s thrown a total of 210.1 innings in 62 major league games, 34 of which were starts.
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In October, soon after the 2021 season ended, Hess checked into an emergency room after experiencing chest tightness and shortness of breath. About a week later, he was diagnosed with a cancerous germ cell tumor. He revealed on the Sports Spectrum Podcast that doctors told him he likely would have suffered a fatal stroke or heart attack if he’d waited any longer to go to the ER.
“You have to face the mortality aspect of life … and ultimately just trusting and trying to encourage each other to keep, I guess, a God’s-eye view on everything, that no matter what happens in this, something good is going to come out of it,” he said on the podcast. “And God’s going to use that for good.”
Life update: pic.twitter.com/PtVcI24w0S
— David Hess (@hess_express28) October 13, 2021
Last month, Hess and his wife, Devin, joined Sports Spectrum’s “Table Forty” podcast to discuss their faith and how their relationship strengthened in such challenging circumstances. Devin was inspired by the optimism and selflessness her husband displayed on a daily basis.
“David is David every day,” she said on the show. “You don’t know what he’s going through because he’s just always the same and that remained true through cancer and facing mortality, essentially. He was still so positive, still concerned about everybody else.”
Through the entire ordeal, Hess has continued to point to God and been intentional about using his situation as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
“I’ve had countless conversations with people because they ask the same thing. They’re like, ‘How did you get through it?'” Hess said on the Sports Spectrum Podcast. “And I’m like, ‘Man, God’s good. He cares and He loves us.’ And I get to kind of work that conversation into ultimately sharing that God loves you and cares for you and He wants the best for you. But ultimately, He wants a relationship with you more than anything else.”
– TABLE FORTY PODCAST: Tampa Bay Rays Pitcher David Hess & Wife Devin
– SS PODCAST: Rays pitcher David Hess on his cancer diagnosis, returning to baseball
– Rays pitcher David Hess on cancer diagnosis: ‘God is going to use this for His glory’
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