PORTAGE | For most of the baseball season, Bob Dixon has left his home each weekday morning and driven to the University of Chicago Hospital for radiation laser therapy as part of his prostate cancer treatment.
He returns to Portage, where he works for the city, then in the afternoon, goes to the high school, where he is an assistant coach with the baseball.
"It's a relieving situation for me, a state of mind," Dixon said. "I've been doing this since I was 26, 27, when our boys were in Little League, and I'm not stopping now."
Friday at the Portage Senior League Field, the Indians showed their support by wearing Carolina blue jerseys with his name printed on the back for their game with Hanover Central. The team warmed up in their regular red tops before Pirowski took Dixon away from the field so the team could surprise him.
"I had no clue," Dixon said. "I thought Tim was taking me to talk about the lineup. I can't believe it. Wow. For the kids to take the time to salute an old guy like me, it means a lot to me. I couldn't ask for any more. The support I get is just amazing. Words can't explain. The kids, the coaches, whole program, the heart and soul, I love it. It makes me want to do it even more. I'd do it for free."
Dixon's wife Glenda, son Kevin and sister were on hand for the tribute. Pirowski arranged with Jason Dudley of Blythe's to have the jerseys made unbeknown to Dixon. Only a few players knew in advance, in order to keep it a secret.
"That was the hardest part," Pirowski said. "Sometimes, we lose focus on there being bigger things related to life than a baseball game. Bob has his 'life talks' once in awhile. We try to teach them accountability, responsibility, being on time. I can't imagine how tough it is to get up and do what he does every day."
Dixon, who has been in the program all nine years Pirowski has been coach, was diagnosed before last season. He had his prostate removed, but follow-up blood work showed some cancer remained and he began the treatments, which will continue until June 10. His prognosis is good.
"Positive attitude is big," Dixon said. "That's what we try to teach here."
While personally touched by the gesture, Dixon stressed that it's also great publicity for prostate cancer awareness.
"Every man should do it," he said of the test. "Don't hesitate. Make the commitment to get it done. Life can go on. I've been blessed. The good Lord's going to let me hang around a little longer."