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Billy McMacken is back on the baseball diamond!

Amateur great is beating cancer
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 11:08 PM CDT
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MITCHELL, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Though he’s been around it for five decades, baseball never gets old for Billy McMacken. “The same feelings. The sights, smells and sounds in Mitchell brings back a lot of memories for me. And I mentioned to one of my buddies on the bench the other night I said man, I want to be there playing,” Renner INF/DH Billy McMacken says.

And whether it was at South Dakota State and or amateur baseball, he poured his passion into the game. “You knew the name. You knew the reputation. I mean the man was unreal, the best I’ve seen for sure in South Dakota amateur baseball, no doubt,” Renner SS Brian McGuire says.

As Billy reached his fifties with a pair of young kids he was ready to step away from the game and spend more time with them. Which was part of the reason he got a physical and colonoscopy. “The doctor delivering the news after the procedure was a real gut punch for me and my wife (Carley). He said he had seen a lesion on my colon and that started the journey,” Billy says.

Diagnosed with stage three colon cancer on July 27, 2019, McMacken went through months of radiation and chemotherapy, eventually having a tumor removed via surgery this March. And it would be a familiar game that helped him rehab and set a bold goal. “I received a text from one of our players, Tim Huber, who happens to be the Augustana baseball coach. ‘Hey what would you think about playing for the Renner team this summer?’ I kind of responded to him and said well, I don’t think I’d be much of a player, but I think I’d like to be around the game. I think I could coach first (base), I think I could coach third (base). I’d lost a lot of muscle mass, just was weakened. But the desire to get back into baseball made me start walking again. Started even riding a bike again. And then the thought occurred to me you know on about May first, I’m like you know what? My goal is not just to come back and sit in the dugout the entire summer, I want to play in a game,” McMacken says.

That the 52-year old fufilled on July 10th. “That was pretty special. Not too many dry eyes in the dugout! It was pretty cool just to know what he’d been through and, you know, for him to set a goal like that and actually achieve it,” McGuire says. “That was the most important at-bat of my life because it meant that I had won a fight. I mean, I have a ways to go before I am declared cancer free, you know I have scans and checks. But so far, so good,” Billy says.

For his remarkable return McMaken was named the Mark Melhaff Memorial Award winner for comeback player of the year. These days he’s on a mission to encourage everyone over 50 to get a colonoscopy. “He said that to us many times and it doesn’t really hit home until it actually hits home to someone you know and love and respect,” McGuire says.

And to get back in the lineup next year. “Get my body in better shape and take some swings in the offseason, get my arm in shape. I am playing next year and I’m going to fight for at-bats,” McMacken says.

In Mitchell, Zach Borg, Dakota News Now sports.

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