By JOE McFARLAND
Moments of solitude have been few and far between for Dr. Brent Saik.
So when the founder and organizer of the World’s Longest Baseball Game in Sherwood Park was asked about whether he’s able to take a moment to soak the moment in, he didn’t hesitate.
“I’ve already found my spot,” Saik told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast prior to event. “It will be the corner in left field and I’m just going to grab a beer, take a chair and go sit there with no one around to just have a quiet moment.”
Those opportunities were in short supply over four days, as Saik and more than 50 other players took turns pitching, hitting and fielding for the Cure Cancer Foundation.
Not only were they hoping to top the previous Guinness World Record for longest game (believed to be 82-83 hours), but they were hoping to raise $250,000 for the Cure Cancer Foundation.
After 85 hours on the diamond, Saik announced to the crowd assembled at Centennial Park that they had topped $460,000.
It will likely take a few weeks or even months to learn if the game will officially enter the record books. In the meantime, the players will have a chance to heal their wounds and rest.
They also all realize that the pain they feel pales in comparison to what those they raised money for are feeling.
IT’S NOT A SPRINT
Saik has spent the better part of 30 years keeping a promise for his father. Terry Saik passed away of colon cancer in 1991.
“I made a promise to my dad when he was in hospital that I would try to do my best to keep kids out of the places he was going to,” Saik said.
In 2003, he organized his first World’s Longest Hockey Game to raise money for cancer research. The sixth edition of that game, which happened in 2018, raised over a million dollars. And in 2016, he brought the idea to the baseball diamond.
It became a well-oiled machine after the first time around, with players taking the field in shifts and subbing in wherever needed.
“You’ll probably play around 35 hours of baseball,” Saik figured.
And while that sounds like a lot, many of the players believe that’s the easy part when compared with those dealing with cancer.
“When we’re doing this, we’re going to see little kids who don’t have hair come and watch,” he continued. “That chokes me up every time.”
— Matt DeBeurs (@MattdeBuilder) August 26, 2019
Even talking about those emotional moments during the game before it even happened leave Saik at a loss for words.
“It’s incredible the amount of people who come by and thank us,” Saik said. “It’s sad but it’s why we’re doing it. We’re going to find a way to cure this thing.”
HOPING FOR A HOME RUN
All of the money raised from the four-day marathon is going towards the clinical trial of a new cancer drug at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton.
You can support exciting new @UAlberta cancer research that will save lives right here in #yeg . Please donate to World's Longest Baseball Game #WLBG to ensure patients @crosscancer50 will be first in the world to participate in these clinical trials https://t.co/pHGuQASPGO pic.twitter.com/QuU3aVFiIG
— World's Longest Game (@longest_game) August 14, 2019
According to the University of Alberta, the drug shuts down the abnormal chemical signalling in many common cancers and triggers those cells to die, but spares the healthy cells.
In the eyes of Saik, every dollar raised gets researchers one step closer to helping those he promised he would help.
“Every cancer drug and everything we do right now is a treatment, it’s not actually a cure,” he stated. “But they’re on to something right now that within nine months, it’s very possible it could be used on little kids with leukemia.”
— David Bloom (@davidbloomphoto) August 24, 2019
Health officials at the University of Alberta say the drug, known as PCLX-001, has shown such promise that it has a one-in-three chance of making a positive impact on the lives of patients and families facing cancer.
That hope is what keeps Saik going. He’s quick to thank everyone who gets involved, from the athletes and volunteers to politicians and police.
“I’m sure we’re breaking every bylaw in Sherwood Park to put this on,” Saik laughed.
The goal might obviously be to never have to host another game and that would mean finding a cure. Until then though, the Edmonton-based optometrist knows the vision could very well change.
“It’s grown animals I never believed it would,” Saik admitted. “There are guys talking about wanting to do the World’s Longest Football Game next.”