Third-base coach hopes to rejoin Mariners sometime after All-Star break
SEATTLE -- Mariners third-base coach Jeff Datz has been sidelined since late April after announcing he was dealing with cancer, but the longtime baseball man didn't talk publicly about his situation until Wednesday when he revealed he's now done with six weeks of radiation treatment.
Datz, 53, finished treatment a week ago for Level 2 squamous cell cancer, which developed in a growth on his neck, and says he's hoping to rejoin the Mariners on the field sometime after the All-Star break.
That might be an optimistic outlook at this point, given he's still recovering from the treatment, but Datz already had a history of skin cancer and isn't about to back down from his new battle.
"With my skin cancer history, one minute you're thinking positive and saying, 'This is local. They'll cut it out and I'll be good to go. It's just like another skin cancer, but a little deeper,'" he said. "But the next minute you're thinking, 'With my skin cancer history I'm going to light up on these scans from head to toe,' and five minutes later you're planning your funeral. It's like, 'Woah.'
"But after that first week, the CT scan came back with no other skin cancer in the body and all the tests came back good. The biopsies from my throat came back good. All signs were positive. Six weeks of radiation, I don't wish on anybody.
"But having said that, you're 53 and feel like, 'Why me at 53?' But hey, man, let me tell you something. I'm walking in seeing 10-12-year-old kids going through this and, wow, it's rough. But they're getting through it, and fortunately I've come through it in not too bad of shape."
Datz felt a lump developing on his neck late in Spring Training and had tests around the time of the Mariners' first road trip. When the diagnosis came out in mid-April, Datz was taken off his game duties and team travel, but he has continued working with the team throwing batting practice and hitting fungoes in pregame work when the club is home.
Being able to continue putting on the uniform and being part of things has been a saving grace.
"It's immense," Datz said. "It's been therapy for me. [Hitting coach] Dave Hansen looked at me and said, 'You want to throw a group?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I want to throw a group. I need to throw a group. This is therapy for me.' These guys are on the road and I'm sitting there watching on TV, throwing stuff and cussing and my wife says, 'What's going on?'
"She's taking the brunt of that because I'm not with the team and I'm sitting here at home while they're on the road. That's frustrating, but you have to take care of yourself at some point. We'll get through it. Now it's on the downside. Each and every day I hope to feel better and we'll go from there. I'm fired up when the club is home and pulling like heck for them when they're on the road. Now I'm almost good to go."
Datz's mother died of cancer and his father recently passed away as well, but he says he's been bolstered through his situation by a widespread support group.
"My wife has put up with my different moods and frustration more than anybody. She's been great," he said. "Both my brothers back east came out. It's just been amazing, the support from family, friends and people in baseball. All types of people all over this country have sent letters and calls and texts. It's very nice. It's a little setback, a little bump in the road. We'll get through it. We're getting through it. Then we'll be good to go."