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Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia chats with cancer patient Jessica Dunn before opening day baseball action in Toronto (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Toronto Blue Jays J.P. Arencibia chats with cancer patient Jessica Dunn before opening day baseball action in Toronto (Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Baseball

Blue Jays a winner in the eyes of at least one fan Tuesday night Add to ...

There are always plenty of stories from the home opener and here are a couple more left over from Cleveland’s 4-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night at a deflated Rogers Centre.

As the Blue Jays were taking batting practice before the game, 14-year-old Jessica Dunn came on to the field in her wheelchair accompanied by her mother, Carolyn, and grandfather, Doug Keltcher.

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Her head bald from continuing chemotherapy treatments, the three earrings that adorned Jessica’s right ear twinkled as she watched the Blue Jays go about their preparations.

And she was positively beaming when Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia took time to come over and spent several minutes chatting with the Scarborough resident.

“She’s a baseball nut,” said Keltcher proudly of his granddaughter. “Derek Jeter’s her favorite player. And she says that J.P. Arencibia is her favorite player who doesn’t play in October.”

It is that kind of spunk that has helped Dunn endure the serious heath issues that suddenly gripped her last July when she started complaining to her parents that her left knee was sore.

Initial X-rays were negative but the pain persisted and further investigation revealed a mass in her left femur. The cancer had also spread to her lungs.

Dunn was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or cancer of the bone, the same illness that caused the death of Terry Fox when he was just 21 back in 1981.

Rather than amputate the leg fully, doctor’s at Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children opted to do a procedure known as a rotationplasty, or a partial amputation.

It involved removing Dunn’s leg from above the knee, cutting away the cancerous tissue and the knee joint. The remaining lower portion of her leg was then rotated and reconnected so that her ankle – facing backwards – now serves as her knee joint.

When a prosthesis is slipped on the foot it mimics the knee joint and allows Dunn to better control her movements and, down the road, be able to walk more normally.

“My foot is going to eventually be my knee,” Dunn said. “Instead of having a mechanical knee I’ll use my foot to control the prosthesis better and give me a lot more movement.”

“It means she will be able to ski, run, play baseball again,” Carolyn Dunn said.

Jessica has been outfitted with a prosthesis but she is still getting used to wearing it.

Recently been declared cancer free, the chemotherapy treatments that will wind up on Friday have zapped some of her strength Dunn she is looking forward to being able to start wearing her new prosthesis more often in the near future.

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This opening day thing is getting to be old hat for Steve Delabar, the Blue Jays reliever.

Delabar began the last season as a member of the Seattle Mariners, who went over to Japan in March to play a couple exhibition games against Japanese teams before opening the season in Tokyo against the Oakland Athletics.

By Delabar’s count, the Mariners went through what was the equivalent of four season opening games.

There was the opening exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants that had all the trappings of opening day that was repeated when the Mariners played the A’s in the first of two regular-season games at the Tokyo Dome.

The two clubs then returned to North American where the Mariners played the A’s in what was the A’s home opener in Oakland. The Mariners then returned to Seattle to play their official home opener, again against Oakland.

Talk about Groundhog Day.

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Arencibia was warned there would be days like Tuesday’s trying to catch the unpredictable knuckler thrown by R.A. Dickey.

Arencibia was charged with three passed ball in the first two innings and was chasing down errant balls for most of the game.

“Frustrating wouldn’t be the word for it,” said Arencibia, who counted one of Toronto’s four hits in the loss to the Indians. “I think it’s a challenge.

“First thing they told me was, listen, you’re going to miss balls and you’re going to miss balls with guys on third base and they’re going to score. And you have to put it behind you because there’s going to be pitches that he throws that no one could have caught, unless you have a fishnet that’s for a large fish.

“That’s not going to be an easy ball to catch. That’s the fun of catching it, I think it’s a challenge.”

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