Cancer-free Rangers coach Beasley celebrates with anthem

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Singing comes easily for Texas Rangers third base coach Tony Beasley, which is part of the reason he handled the national anthem on opening day against the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians.

The bigger explanation was Beasley returning to full-time duties in his home ballpark Monday for the first time in more than a year. The 50-year-old missed last season while getting treatment for rectal cancer that was diagnosed before spring training in 2016.

A year ago, Beasley was away from the team, in the middle of an aggressive cycle of chemotherapy. Before this opener, the short, stocky former minor league infielder carried a couple of boxes of balls and a bat through the clubhouse, stopping for reporters before resuming his pre-game routine.

“I’ll never forget last year and what I had to endure, all the lessons that were learned that came with that,” said Beasley, who sang the anthem in Pittsburgh when he was on the Pirates staff in 2010. “Last year will always be a part of me.”

Beasley’s 85-second rendition went off without a hitch , unless you count close friend and Texas manager Jeff Banister’s warning two days earlier about coordinating with the flyover. Turns out Beasley finished almost 15 seconds early.

“Told him just don’t mess up the timing,” Banister said, “because if they fly over too soon or too late, nobody will remember.”

These two won’t forget anything about the past year. Banister, who survived bone cancer in his leg as a teenager, was the “bad guy” during Beasley’s battle, figuring his role was to make sure Beasley made it through the difficult days.

But Beasley didn’t plan on having any bad days. That’s the mindset that inspired teammates and fellow coaches. And in Beasley’s mind, that’s why he was declared cancer-free in December, shortly after his final surgery on his 50th birthday.

“I didn’t allow myself to deal with tough days. I refused tough days,” Beasley said. “No matter what I had to go through that day, I felt like I’d get through it and keep moving. I understand that it was a process, but it was a process that I had to win day in and day out.”

Banister and Beasley grew close as minor league teammates in the early 1990s and served on the Pirates staff together before the Rangers hired Banister after the 2015 season. He brought Beasley with him.

“Tony’s probably the closest person I have in the game,” Banister said. “We have shared joy, heartache and have celebrated a number of things together. We can talk about other things other than baseball. I like to think we do life together as much as we do baseball together.”

Beasley prefers gospel music and sings in his church. Clubhouse leader Adrian Beltre declared him the “happy birthday” singer, so the players weren’t hearing him for the first time.

“I think hopefully they chose him to one of the shows on TV because it’s really good,” shortstop Elvis Andrus said.

The reviews were beside the point, though.

“Just to be back doing things that I enjoy doing, at full capacity without limitations, I’m thankful and honored,” Beasley said. “My health is back.”

And Beasley celebrated with a song in front of nearly 50,000 listeners.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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