EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 3, 2006

Lester not alone in his fight


There was his 12-year-old cousin who recently relayed the message that when asked what he wanted for Christmas, he said for Lester simply to get well. (He put that one up on the refrigerator.) A boy from nearby Mercer Island sent a picture of himself with the ball Lester had thrown to him during batting practice before a Mariners game with the Red Sox. (Of course, it took the long way to Tacoma, heading across the country to Yawkey Way before coming back to Washington.)

And then came the real heart-wrencher.

"One that caught my attention came from a lady who had cancer and didn't have a really good chance," John Lester said. "She wrote a letter to Jonathan which said she wasn't given a good chance to survive, but her son was a baseball player and she made it her goal not to miss any of his games. She would almost not be able to function, but she would still make it to the games.

"Her son was a good pitcher, but just an average hitter. One time he got the hit that won the game. The first thing he did was come out from the dugout and give his mother the ball. At the end of the whole story, it said that her son had now graduated from high school and she was in remission. She said that she will now be watching for Jonathan to come back, and that what he needs to do is to give his mom a ball from that first game he pitches in Fenway. She said for his mom to keep an open space for that ball.

"We were all sitting there, just saying, 'Wow!' "

Another thing that has been gratifying for Lester has been the constant communication with members of the Red Sox, such as Curt Schilling and Mike Timlin. Although at one point members of the organization were being so respectful in regards to his privacy that the pitcher called Francona saying, "I like to be bugged. Have somebody call me."

While home, he continues to be showered with acknowledgement, with his former high school, Bellarmine Prep, wanting to hang his jersey on the gymnasium wall, along with constant prayers during Mass at the family church.

Now for Lester, however, there is just one gift left he is hoping to receive - a plane ticket to spring training.

"It was funny; he was talking to a doctor and he asked Jonathan where spring training was," John Lester said. "He told him it was in Fort Myers. The doctor said that was too bad - he had been to Fort Myers. Jonathan told him that as far as he was concerned, Fort Myers was going to be the most beautiful place on earth."

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