CLEARWATER, Fla. — Mike Schmidt sat down at a picnic table beyond the left-field wall on a sunny morning at Bright House Field, then scooted over to seek the shade of some palm trees and a light tower.
He wasn’t taking any chances.
The 64-year-old Hall of Famer is recovering from an advanced form of skin cancer that kept him from being a guest instructor with the Philadelphia Phillies in spring training.
Schmidt was in camp Sunday and publicly spoke for the first time about his illness — stage 3 melanoma, and the two operations, radiation and chemotherapy treatments that followed.
“I feel fantastic right now,” he said.
Looking fit and trim, the three-time NL MVP is scheduled for a scan Monday to see how far his recovery has progressed. He still plans to join the Phillies’ television crew to work 13 home Sunday games this season, and to return to camp next year to work with hitters.
“I’m a very lucky man,” he said.
Schmidt felt most fortunate that he got a “crusty little thing” on his hand checked out in August. A dermatologist decided to give him a full examination and found a mole on his back.
A biopsy revealed the melanoma was more serious than stage 1, and Schmidt spent the following months shuttling between Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his home in Jupiter, Fla.
“I’ve done just about everything I can to destroy the cancer cells in my body,” he said.
Schmidt spent much of his life in the sun — not using sunscreen, trying to get tan, as he pointed out.
Now, he takes a different approach.
“I don’t like the sun,” he said. “It’s evil. You get scared of the sun.”
Niese leaves with elbow injury
JUPITER, Fla. — New York Mets pitcher Jon Niese (Defiance) left his start against St. Louis with a sore elbow and will head back to New York for tests, the latest setback for the left-hander in what he described as “the spring training from hell.”
Niese is expected to have an MRI exam today, and it’s unclear when he might pitch again.
“It’s the back of the elbow, which is good,” Niese said. “I’m almost 100 percent sure it’s nothing serious.”
Shoulder soreness slowed Niese earlier this spring, and Sunday marked only his second Grapefruit League start. Following his first outing, Niese was optimistic he could be ready for opening day, but now that appears unlikely.
“It’s frustrating,” Niese said.
Niese, who started the Mets’ season opener last year, allowed two runs in two innings and didn’t come out of the dugout for the third. He gave up three hits and one walk, throwing 24 of his 35 pitches for strikes.
Niese was sidelined last June with a partially torn rotator cuff. He returned in August, going 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA the rest of the way to finish 8-8 with a 3.71 ERA in 24 starts.
New Bremen grad
2nd at indoor nationals
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The University of Findlay’s Dillon Webster, a New Bremen graduate, came in second Saturday in the 800 meter run at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track National Championship with a time of 1:49.72, just .21 of a second behind the leader, Ashland’s Drew Windle. For his effort, Webster earned his second All-American honor of the weekend.
On Friday, he was joined by fellow New Bremen graduate Justin Ellerman, Jacob Hayes and Kyle Smithey in finishing fourth in the distance relay.
Findlay’s 4-by-400 meter women’s relay team, comprised of junior Maud Sanmiquel, freshman Adrianna Powell-Lawrence, junior Shelby Stump, a Hardin Northern grad, and junior Kirsten Gaerke finished seventh in the event with a time of 3:49.43, earning All-American honors.
In women’s shot put, junior Kendra Averesch, a Leipsic graduate, came through in the clutch as her last throw of the day was her best, earning the now two-time All-American a fourth place finish. The throw measured 51 feet.
Rockholds to ONU
Bath grads freshmen Conner and Logan Rockhold announced on their Twitter account Sunday that they were heading to Ohio Northern next year to play basketball. The pair helped Bath reach the regional finals in basketball in 2012.
This past fall, both Rockholds played soccer at the University of Findlay (5-11-1). Conner came off the bench for 10 games, while Logan came off the bench in five.