Around the Nest: Edition 4 – David Hess won’t back down

David Hess was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2014 MLB Draft in the fifth round out of Tennessee Tech.

Ascending through the minors, it was May of 2018 when the right-hander would make his big league debut. Though his first season in the majors didn’t go exactly as expected, there was promise in some of Hess’ work.

Though he would go 3-10 across 21 games (19 starts), he would pitch to a 4.88 ERA and strike out 74 batters to only 37 walks across 103.1 innings.

Things, unfortunately, would not get much better for Hess, as over the next two seasons with Baltimore he would compile a 1-10 record across 26 games (14 starts) with a 6.72 ERA in 87 innings of work.

Hess would elect free agency in December of 2020 and sign a minor league deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. That stint was short-lived, as he was traded to the Miami Marlins shortly after.

After going 2-2 with an ERA of 8.00 in 14 games, Miami would DFA Hess, who elected free agency before, once again, signing a minor league deal with Tampa Bay.

Hess would go on to pitch the rest of the season between Tampa Bay and the Durham Bulls. But for some reason, he felt fatigued with little energy for most of the season.

In October, Hess went out for a run, when after a few minutes, he was gasping for air with his hands on his knees. The next day, while in the shower, he started throwing up blood.

A trip to the emergency room revealed Hess had a mass the size of a cantaloupe in his chest, and his body was riddled with blood clots. His doctor told him he could have died on the spot the previous day during his run.

“It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around. They kind of told me without telling me, ‘You shouldn’t be alive right now.’ ’’

– David Hess on his reaction to the news from his doctors

Suddenly, the life Hess envisioned going one way had taken a turn towards fear and vulnerability.

Devin, Hess’ wife, was handed a packet for funeral arrangements, putting the reality of the situation right in front of them both.

Hess had a germ cell tumor that was pressing against his internal organs, which left him operating at a 10-20% capacity. Doctors predicted the tumor could have been growing anywhere from 18 months to three years.

Hess would undergo a strong nine-week regiment of chemotherapy. During this time, Devin would monitor his diet, search online forums and would offer support and encouragement.

Needing inspiration and hope, Hess would receive messages and phone calls from 2021 Comeback Player of the Year and stage three colon cancer survivor, Trey Mancini, whom he played with in the Orioles organization for many years.

“As soon as I heard what we were looking at, he was one of the first people that came to my mind. It was, and still is, a big motivating factor for me just to see how he handled it and to see that it was possible. I wanted to try and follow in those footsteps and hopefully have the same type of story.’’

– David Hess on Trey Mancini’s battle with stage three colon cancer

Mancini would reach out to Hess and share his own experiences with colon cancer and expectations and emotional swings that Hess would experience.

“I told him when he got diagnosed, ‘I know it’s scary. I know this feeling that you’re feeling right now. But there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re going to get through it.’ He’s one of the strongest people I’ve met.’’

– Trey Mancini on his conversation with David Hess

In January of 2022, Hess would visit his oncologist for an update post-chemotherapy. During the visit, Hess would see a large blue mass on a PET scan.

He would learn that the blue mass would, in actuality, be his heart. It was so compressed by the tumor in previous scans that his heart wasn’t visible.

However, Hess would find out that his tumor had shrunk by 99%. He was able to get back to work and turn back to his career that he loved and enjoyed.

“It was just a rush of excitement, and there was a little bit of nervousness. I’m sitting there wondering, ‘Am I going to be able to bounce back? What’s it going to look like in terms of working out now?’ More than anything, it was just pure joy and pure happiness.’’

– David Hess on finding out about his good news from his doctors

In February, Hess would return to baseball activities and go to spring training with the Tampa Bay Rays. He would pitch in Triple-A Durham, but by July, he would return home.

Hess would let his body recover and allow himself a full offseason of regular training before pursuing his career.

 “I didn’t feel like I could perform at the level I needed to. I think I was probably trying to force the envelope more than I should have.”

– David Hess on making an early return to baseball activities

This past November, Hess would team up with the American Cancer Society as an honorary shucker at the Shuck Cancer Event. As a fundraiser, the event offered music, a silent auction and oysters. Hess raised $2,757 in pledges, exceeding his goal of $2,500.

Hess had to deal with his own mortality a little over a year ago. But with encouragement, support and hope, he has found a way to push through beyond his wildest dreams.

He is using his experience to help others and support them while they cope and endure the same experiences he had.

“I don’t know why it happened to me. I don’t know what the reasoning is right now. But I’m glad this can at least serve a purpose and help other people, even if I don’t realize that’s happening.”

– David Hess on his battle with cancer

Unfortunately for Hess, just this past week, he posted on his social media that his cancer was still lingering, and he would have to go through chemotherapy again.

But in typical Hess fashion, he used this discouraging news to put forth a story of hope, courage and, most importantly, fight.

We want to send continued thoughts and prayers to David, his wife Devin and their entire family as they continue their battle.

What do you think of Hess’ battle with cancer? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Stephen’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @SRJHeckman

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