Stamford baseball player continues playing as he battles cancer

His mother dropped him off at 2:00 PM, the game started at 4:00 PM and around 6:30 PM, Kyle Bancroft was overrun by his Stamford teammates after winning the game with a sacrifice fly to right field.

All pretty normal things that probably happened on baseball fields across the country that day.

The difference is that there is nothing normal about what it took for Bancroft to celebrate there with his teammates on the Stamford field after beating New Canaan on Wednesday.

Bancroft, a sophomore on the Stamford JV baseball team, is undergoing cancer treatments while playing for the Black Knights this season.

Bancroft has to play once every three weeks for a week because his treatments are so exhausting. But every time he puts on the orange and black uniform and plays baseball with his friends for a few hours, everything else he’s dealing with disappears.

“I feel pretty good. Not so bad. I get a little gassed every now and then, but it’s so much fun to go out and play, ”said Bancroft. “The key for me is to stay positive. I know I have to get through it, keep fighting and beating. Baseball was great. I get to play here and the JV guys just treat me like one of the guys. I love baseball and I am so happy to play. “

Bancroft has loved baseball since he started playing at the age of four. His passion for the game only grew stronger as he made his way through Stamford North Little League, to the Stamford Legion program and now at Stamford High.

His goal is to play varsity for the Black Knights and some believe he’d be there if he wasn’t fighting cancer.

His parents are happy to see him play JV, and are happy that he is on a field at all.

Stamford sophomore Kyle Bancroft continues to play baseball for the Black Knights junior varsity team, despite being diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, the second most common form of childhood bone cancer, but still very rare.

Scott Ericson / Hearst Connecticut Media

Bancroft is a broad-shouldered, strong player who easily generates power with his smooth swing; has soft, quick hands that play first base and understands the intricacies of the game.

“He has four out of five tools, we just have to work on his speed,” said Stamford JV coach Mike Buzzeo. ‘I remember seeing him at tryouts. I didn’t know about him but saw his swing and said, ‘that’s a sophomore, I’ll never be on JV.’ He hits bombs and makes it look easy. In the field, the infielders know when they throw him over the diamond, Kyle will catch him. We’re a different team when he comes. “

Bancroft is not always there.

He is currently in his fourth round of chemotherapy treatments, each lasting three weeks.

In the first week of each cycle, the severity of the treatments makes it impossible to play baseball.

In the second week he plays, but he can get tired. The third week he is free from treatments and said he feels best then.

“You would never know anything is wrong,” said Buzzeo. “The boy is so incredibly strong to get chemo and play baseball. The more I learned about what he was going through, the more it inspired me. He pretends nothing is bothering him. It’s stupid that this is happening to one of the best people we know. “

Bancroft is so quiet and just wants to be one of the guys on the team, he rarely discusses his ordeal and never complains according to his parents Lisa and Scott Bancroft.

‘He doesn’t like fanfare or attention to himself. He likes to work hard and do his thing, ”said Scott Bancroft. Kyle doesn’t say much. He is a quiet child. You can see the look on his face when he puts on his uniform. It looks different from other times. This gives him a sense of normalcy now that he’s back on it. He is with his teammates and he has always been a kid who loves his teammates. He always works hard for his coaches and his teammates and takes pride in putting on the uniform. “

Few people know exactly how much Bancroft has been through in the past year or would believe it if you told them.

While playing basketball and doing winter baseball training in December 2019, Bancroft started to have back pain.

Trips to chiropractors and other specialists failed to determine the problem that Bancroft and his parents attributed to an overloaded muscle from sports.

In January 2020, Bancroft noticed a protrusion on his back.

A trip to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital revealed every parent’s nightmare. Bancroft had a tumor affecting the bone on his 11th rib.

He was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, the second most common bone cancer in children, but still very rare. According to St. Jude Hospital, approximately 200 children and young adults each year have Ewing’s sarcoma in the United States.

He was given a treatment plan of 14 sessions of chemotherapy, surgery in the middle to remove the tumor, followed by radiation treatment at the end.

He was admitted for inpatient care in Yale-New Haven from March to November, where he had overnight stays for treatment.

The surgery removed his 11th, 12th, and part of his 10th rib and loosened and reattached his latissimus dorsi muscle.

“Last year when I saw him have that surgery, I didn’t think he would ever play baseball again,” said Lisa Bancroft. “I never said that to him, but knowing how important baseball is to him made me worry. We didn’t know what would happen. He inspires us every day. “

He completed treatment on December 10, 2020 and received a follow-up scan in early February. That scan brought bad news.

Ewing’s sarcoma had spread to his right lung. He would have to undergo treatment again.

‘I was very worried when I heard it was happening again. My heart dropped when I heard it, ”said Kyle Bancroft. “I just knew I had to keep fighting and beat it again. That’s the key, staying positive. I can accept it and roll over or keep fighting. I keep fighting. “

Lisa said that not only did Kyle embrace his physical therapy, he enjoyed going, knowing that each session brought him closer to a return to the field.

Doctors gave him permission to play baseball while undergoing treatment in January, and Bancroft trained again at the Batter’s Box in Norwalk, trying for the Stamford Senior American Legion (19U) team, which he made.

Bancroft had a lot on his mind, but close to the top was whether he could get his swing back.

It didn’t take long for him to realize that the sweet swing would never go away.

“I missed a whole season and a whole summer, but when I came back my swing was still good,” said Bancroft. “I worked hard in the off-season and muscle memory returned quickly. I feel really good on the plate this year. I am good at bats and good swings on the ball. “

In his first game at JV this spring, Bancroft announced his return by throwing a ball into the tree in the deep midfield of New Canaan’s Mead Park.

He kept hitting well, hitting third and playing at first base.

He has spent a year remotely attending school and, despite his treatments, has maintained his status as an honorary student.

The fact that he’s playing at a high level again while undergoing cancer treatments doesn’t surprise Ken Lewis, who coached Bancroft on the 15U Legion team that won the state championship in 2019.

“Big hit, big game Kyle,” said Lewis. “He was our clean-up campaign and always came through in the coupling. What makes him special is that he is a true leader. All by example. He speaks all his words with his glove and bat. Kyle is a very calm child, but everyone on the team looks at him and follows him naturally. He shows it on the field and in the dug-out. I was going to take nine from him and two on Sunday. “

Lewis, who has a good relationship with the Bancroft family, has always been amazed at how Kyle has handled the whole ordeal.

“I’m not at all surprised that he came back to play,” said Lewis. “When he was first diagnosed I told him not to worry because there would always be baseball. He just wanted to be back on the field. He must be on the field. It puts him in the right frame of mind. He works harder than anyone in baseball and he works harder than anyone to get better. It will work well for him in the game and for the rest of his life. He’s so mentally strong and he’s become a role model for the younger players in the Legion program. “

Since Kyle’s return, his parents have been playing all his games, just as they always have been.

“Baseball has been such a big part of our lives since he was four years old. This is what we do as a family. We’ll bring the dog, get the chairs and umbrella, bring lunch, and sit on the baseball field, ”said Scott Bancroft. “He’s always been a really good baseball player and he’s been knocking the ball out of the park for years. Defensively, he has a good baseball IQ. He has always worked hard. He loves the game and we love to see him play. “

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

Comments are closed.