Devin Smeltzer was just was just 9-years-old when he was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor in his bladder. He immediately underwent a grueling trial of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. But in the midst of his arduous battle with the disease, he had a wonderful moment of hope — meeting one of his baseball heroes, Phillies star Chase Utley.
Smeltzer, who a patient at St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia at the time, managed to get a picture of Utley signing his Phillies hat.
“The picture of me and Chase has been in the living room for a long time,” Smeltzer, now a healthy 22-year-old, told Spectrum Sports Net. “When I go back home, it’s always very humbling to see that picture because of where I’m at today. It’s crazy to believe that I was going through such a hard time at such a young age, and how far I’ve grown.”
As the years passed, Smeltzer overcame his cancer through a series of treatment cycles. He also kept his deeply held passion for the game of baseball, becoming an accomplished pitcher in high school and college.
Then, in 2016, he was selected in the fifth round of the MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Incredibly, just a year before Smeltzer’s selection in the draft, Chase Utley was traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers, where he has been playing ever since. That turn of events set up a chance reunion that both men would remember forever.
According to PEOPLE, during this year’s spring training, the team brought Smeltzer into the clubhouse where manager Dave Roberts sat holding the picture of 9-year-old Smeltzer and Utley.
Thirteen years later, these two talented players reunited in an emotional and joyful meeting.
“I was able to play through it,” Smeltzer told Utley of his battle with cancer. “I just wanted to thank you for everything you did. It means a lot.”
Today I got to thank @chaseutley on behalf of St. Christopher’s hospital, my family,and all of philly. We have both come a long way since ‘06. On and off the field he leads and gives back. Thanks to the @dodgers for making this happen on a higher platform to get my story out and inspire. Looking forward to my strike out campaign this year and seeing what we can rally up to help out Katie’s Krusaders. Information to come! . . . . #catchcancerlooking #dodgers #phillies #inspire #survivor
“It’s a pretty special and unique story with Devin,” Utley told Sportsnet. “I can’t even imagine what he was going through, what his parents were going through… Hopefully, at some point, he’ll be pitching at Dodger Stadium.”
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 30, 2018
Smeltzer now heads up a campaign to raise funds for children who are suffering from cancer. He is hoping to raise money for every strikeout he throws this season.
Katie’s Krusader’s, the organization that Smetlzer supports, seeks to aid children suffering from cancer, honoring the memory of young Katie Ann Duffin, who passed away from cancer at age four.