*This story was originally published in the December 2016 print edition of The Eagle Eye.* Anthony Rizzo, the current first basemen for the Chicago Cubs, is hometown hero of Parkland and Marjory Stoneman Douglas alumni. After proving himself as a talented player on the MSD baseball team, Rizzo was the 2007 sixth round draft pick at age 17. He was drafted as a top minor league prospect by the Boston Red Sox.
“As a student at MSD, I was able to really develop as an athlete and my team was like my second family,” Rizzo said. “I have always loved the game of baseball, but in high school I was really able to build the groundwork for a career in baseball.”
In 2008, while playing for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in Greenville, S.C., he received news that would forever change his life. At age 18, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer.
“Every step of our journeys impacts the people we become,” Rizzo said. “I definitely would not be the person I am today without enduring that struggle. I think it was really humbling and also really empowering. It makes you appreciate your health for sure.”
In September 2008, after six months of chemotherapy, Rizzo learned that his cancer was in remission. This experience would later prompt him to establish The Anthony Rizzo Foundation in 2012. The nonprofit organization aims to support families who face the disease and to encourage cancer research. The foundation holds an annual fundraiser walk in Parkland in December.
“The thing that inspires me most about Rizzo is that he battled through cancer and still managed to come back and be a spectacular baseball player; anything is possible even when life throws you curveballs,” said Stoneman Douglas baseball player Derek Musial.
On December 6, 2010, Rizzo was traded to the San Diego Padres, where he played on their minor league team, the Tuscan Padres. Rizzo was the Padres Minor League Player of the Month for three consecutive months. He premiered in the Major League on July 9, 2011, and hit his first Major League homerun only two days later.
He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on Jan. 6, 2012. Rizzo played for the Iowa Cubs, thriving as a minor league player. He was named Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for April and May. Additionally, he was named National League Rookie of the Month for July and Chicago Cubs Player of the Month for September.
On May 12, 2013, Rizzo signed a 7-year, $41 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Rizzo’s tenacity and unyielding focus enabled him to participate in his first MLB game All-Star game in July 2014. He was also named National League Player of the Week on July 20, 2014. During the 2016 season, Rizzo had 170 hits with 43 doubles, 4 triples, 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. He finished the year with a .292 batting average.
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs made their first appearance in the World Series since 1945.
“The team was like a family. We shared the ups and downs together,” Rizzo said. “In baseball and in life, you’ll experience highs and lows. Having a team like this and teammates like Kris and Rossy make the good moments that much better.”
Rizzo played first base for the Cubs in the World Series. During the series, Rizzo scored 7 runs and hit 5 RBIs, serving as a crucial component of his team’s success. The team won the World Series
As Rizzo and his organization proceeded to gain popularity and importance, he starred as the first basemen for the Cubs in the World Series. Rizzo led his team to victory after an 108 year drought. During the game, he scored seven runs and hit five RBIs, serving as a crucial component of his team’s success. The team won the World Series after a 108-year drought.
“It’s amazing to be part of history, and Chicago deserves that win,” Rizzo said. “I’m happy that I was able to be a part of it.”
Chicago celebrated the win with a World Series Parade on Nov. 4. An estimated 5 million people attended, which is twice the population of Chicago.
“I have felt proud throughout my entire career. I think the World Series parade in Chicago was a really special moment,” Rizzo said. “Being surrounded by 5 million fans was incredible. Seeing the joy on their faces really was an amazing moment that I was lucky to experience.”
Rizzo attributes his success to the vital role that his family has played throughout his life.
“Without my family I would not be where I am today,” Rizzo said. “There is no question there. They are the reason I am who I am and have been successful in this game and in life. They always put me and my older brother first and supported our dreams. My mom, dad and grandparents never missed any of our events growing up.”
Rizzo is not only a source of pride for Chicago Cubs fans, but also for the residents of Parkland, his hometown. Personally and professionally, Rizzo constantly demonstrates the importance of perseverance, resilience, and and determination.
Rizzo offered advice to those who aspire to reach his same level of success.
“Don’t focus too much on a repeat, just go out there and enjoy the ride,” Rizzo said. “That’s what it’s all about. Have fun and good luck. The moments pass too quickly, and you don’t want to find yourself living a life of ‘what if’s’ and ‘I wish I had’s.”