Ryan Teixeira’s battle with cancer received a boost from one of his favorite Major League Baseball players Friday.
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Justin Turner paid Teixeira — the former Arroyo Grande High School baseball star and 2015 graduate who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in September, his second cancer diagnosis in the past year — a visit at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. Turner surprised Teixeira, a rabid Dodgers fan, at the Los Angeles hospital where he awaits a bone marrow transplant scheduled for early January.
“It was a great experience,” Teixeira said in a phone interview Saturday. “I’m still shocked by it.”
The visit was the continuation of an outpouring of support from the baseball world. Turner, along with teammate Adrian Gonzalez and manager Dave Roberts, sent Teixeira a personalized video message (below) after his diagnosis in September, and Angels slugger Mike Trout also reached out via text message.
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This time, the outreach was up close and personal.
But it almost didn’t happen, according to Ryan’s dad, Steve Teixeira. He had been working behind the scenes to make the visit with Turner — one of his son’s favorite ballplayers — happen since they received the video message over the summer.
Steve Teixeira said that when Turner re-signed earlier this week with the Dodgers, who have a formal partnership with Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, some details had to be ironed out prior to the visit. It all came to fruition Friday, with Ryan Teixeira’s family and girlfriend by his side to witness his reaction.
“That was absolutely incredible,” Steve Teixeira said. “It was such a blessing for my son.”
Ryan Teixeira said the visit was even more of a surprise with all that had been going on in Turner’s life. Teixeira follows the slugger on Instagram, where Turner had been posting photos just days earlier of his vacation to Aruba.
“All of a sudden the door opens and Justin Turner walks in,” Teixeira said. “And I was just taken back by it. … I was super confused by the whole thing.”
Teixeira said he tried to squeeze in as much baseball talk as he could in the time Turner had allotted. Turner was at the hospital to visit other patients, as well, through his charity foundation.
“We hit it off and were talking baseball, talking about how he just re-signed with the Dodgers, how the World Series panned out,” Teixeira said. “Just talking baseball like I would with my friends. It just tells a lot about him as a person that he would take time out to visit me and everyone else.”
Selfies and shooting plenty of video were the order of the day, including recording a message for Turner to take back to Roberts and Gonzalez.
“The personality he shows the public, that’s him,” Teixeira said of Turner. “He’s just a real person.”
Teixeira is awaiting a bone marrow transplant from his brother, Aaron Teixeira, a senior at Arroyo Grande, which was delayed because the leukemia came out of remission and he had to have a new, more aggressive round of chemotherapy. The transplant, originally scheduled for late October, is now set for early January, and Teixeira is preparing to begin conditioning chemotherapy starting at midnight the day after Christmas.
Teixeira had just started his freshman year at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, where he was set to play baseball, when he was first diagnosed with Stage 1 Ewing sarcoma and had a 10-pound tumor removed from his leg last year.
“I’m doing great,” the upbeat Teixeira said.
The visit by Turner certainly helped. Steve Teixeira said his son isn’t able to receive many visitors because of his compromised immune system, meaning catching an illness “could mean life or death.” So just having someone visit, let alone one of his favorite big leaguers, is a big lift to his spirits.
“It’s such a mental break,” Ryan Teixeira said. “It breaks up everything from your day-to-day routine that you get stuck in in the hospital. Because the hospital isn’t any place you want to be. … It really means a lot.”
You can follow Teixeira’s progress and offer encouragement at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/17strong.
Dan Itel, sports editor: 805-781-7989, @dan_itel.