Jay Johnson read about Jacob Medina’s love for college baseball, which was evident among his coaches when Jacob and Perry High School’s baseball team attended Arizona’s team camp in January of last year.
Jacob’s passion for baseball could have taken him anywhere from junior college to Arizona or ASU. The bottom line — he just wanted to continue his love for the game at the next level and then perhaps higher levels after that professionally. The right-hander was a dreamer, like most teenagers. Who could doubt him?
“I would like to reach out to (Jacob’s family) for some encouragement and support,” Johnson mentioned on Sunday.
Johnson did just that. He left a message for the family through Jacob’s uncle Conrad Valdez. The family was understandably unreachable by Jacob’s side at a hospice-care facility at Phoenix. The last few days have been emotional and devastating for the family to see Jacob in his condition from his 15-month bout with Leukemia.
It was just last Easter when Jacob proclaimed on Twitter that he was in remission and that the Leukemia was at “0.00%” in his bone marrow. Only 33 days prior, he was first diagnosed with Leukemia by Banner-University Medical Center in Tucson after he was rushed there following a visit with the Dubuque (Iowa) University coach at the Kino Sports Complex.
Jacob’s desire to play baseball in college took him there to watch Dubuque, which included former Perry teammate Estevan Guillen, in the Tucson Invitational Games that featured numerous small colleges.
Guillen, a year older than Jacob, tweeted to Jacob today: “Thank you for all the great memories you gave me and I’m proud to be a part of your family and known as your ‘big brother’.”
In remission, Jacob could dream about playing baseball again if he could regain his strength and stamina after all of the chemotherapy treatments. He swung the bat a few times. Tossed the ball around. Put on the cap. Wore the glove.
At the end of January, however, the cancer returned. After more treatments were unsuccessful, he was hospitalized again in late March at the Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Last week, after more than a month at the hospital with the unrelenting cancer spreading, Jacob went into hospice care.
He held on to celebrate Mother’s Day with his mom Sunday.
Jacob told a friend who visited him Saturday, “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I need to get my mom something,” recounted his mother, Krystal Medina, on social media.
“This kid is so selfless and even in his last days is still thinking about me,” his mom wrote.
A close friend, former Perry softball player Saige Stutz, who graduated with Jacob last year, was a freshman at St. Joseph’s this season.
“Jacob, you were the most selfless, caring, loving person in my life. You always brought a smile to my face and always knew how to make me laugh. I’d do anything in the world just to hear you make fun of me one more time,” Stutz posted on social media.
Jacob’s caring ways were not only evident in how he treated others. He aimed to study nursing, to have a career similar to his mother, while playing baseball in college.
Late tonight, Guillen posted on Twitter: “At 2:23 p.m. today, Heaven gained one heck of an angel, Jacob Michael Medina … Rest in peace. I love you man. You’re my hero.”
Only 19, far too young, Jacob is gone. He has left this Earth. His spirit remains.
When my nephew Ian passed away from a work-related accident at the young age of 23, I stood in front of close family and friends at the funeral home and told them that in times of sorrow like that we always view those who have passed with a vision of sadness because of the immediate pain. In time, images in our mind will turn to him in a beaming light, smiling, I told them, because we will know that his spirit is alive. We now gain strength from that vision.
#JacobStrong is the rallying hashtag for Jacob in his battle against Leukemia. Now it is a powerful statement for his impact on those around him, a positive force that will last for all of us — even those who have never met him — for as long as we live.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the Medina family during this difficult time. Funeral arrangements are pending.