Commentary

Woody and Guthrie play catch

Updated: April 27, 2012, 11:38 AM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

Woody Roseland Ryan McKee/Rich Clarkson and AssociatesColorado Rockies pitcher Jeremy Guthrie, left, plays catch with fan Woody Roseland, who had already been having a pretty great day.

Sure, you hate Twitter. You say it's the biggest waste of time since the Kansas City Royals. And I used to agree with you. Until I saw this happen:

It's April 10. A Tuesday. Off day for the Colorado Rockies baseball team. Except their new pitcher, nine-year vet Jeremy Guthrie, needs his daily "throw," and he's got nobody to give him a catch. So he tweets this to his 34,000-plus followers:

Two minutes before, a 21-year-old stand-up comic named Woody Roseland had just made it home from the greatest doctor's appointment in his life. After spending more than two and a half years of his life in chemotherapy for five cancer relapses -- knee, lungs and calf -- the nurse said, "You're good. We don't need to see you anymore."

Woody practically floated home to his Denver apartment, fixed himself a sandwich and flipped open his laptop to his Twitter feed, with Guthrie's offer on top. Which is when this happened:

Next thing you know, Woody and his prosthetic left leg and his hairless, eyelashless, eyebrowless head and his chemo-sunken eyes and his soaring heart are jumping in a cab.

"Coors Field, please," Woody says.

"Nope," says the cabbie. "No game today."

"I don't care! Please just get me to Coors!"

Once there, Woody is puzzled as to how to get into the clubhouse to meet Guthrie. "It's not like they have a sign that reads, 'Guys Here to Play Catch with Players Ring This Bell,'" Woody says.

But security guards tend to trust guys on one leg with a baseball glove, which is how Guthrie finds himself bumping into Woody in the clubhouse hallway.

Guthrie is a little speechless. His first guess is: OK, missing leg, doesn't look like much hair under his hat. He's a soldier.

Finally, Guthrie asks, "What happened to your leg?"

"Oh," Woody says, matter of factly. "I lost it to cancer. Got it when I was 16."

That's how Woody is, of course. Cancer to him is just another punch line. It's part of his stand-up routine.

"Being a cancer amputee is like being a really hot girl," Woody tells audiences. "Everybody sends you flowers and cards. And they stare all the time. And I'm like, 'Hello? I'm not just a piece of meat. My eyes are up here, thank you.'"

He's even written a comic cancer rap, which includes this: When will I give up? Never 'Cause I'm literally … the illest rapper ever

No hair on my head No eyebrows neither But my nurse loves me Cuz I know how to treat her

For his part, Guthrie is gobsmacked.

"I'm just like, 'Wow.' Magically, this is how the cards are dealt today. Cool!"

He takes Woody out to right field, puts him against the wall (in case of overthrows), paces off 90 feet and starts throwing.

"He wasn't bad!" Guthrie remembers, which is pretty good, since the last time Woody threw a baseball, he had two legs.

"I couldn't really believe it," Woody says. "Here's me and here's this major league pitcher, trying to teach me how to throw a slider."

From there, Guthrie tosses Woody a little batting practice. ("I pitched bad, he hit bad," Guthrie says.) Then a visit to the mound, then the video room to analyze how Guthrie was going to get San Francisco Giants hitters out the next night (not well -- he was knocked out in the fourth inning) and then more laughing and talking in the Rockies' locker room.

In other words, Twitter and Jeremy Guthrie and a chemotherapy nurse gave Woody Roseland the greatest single day in a life that's been a little light on them.

And that was just the start of things for Woody. Since then, he's gone to a Rockies game with Guthrie's wife. Tim Tebow's foundation, W15H, flew him to Florida for a charity golf tournament, where Bubba Watson let him swing his pink driver and Lindsey Vonn hugged him and "American Idol" star Jordin Sparks heard the cancer rap and liked it so much she's working on helping him turn it into a video. Woody's also writing a book for cancer patients and he's got a video on YouTube: "S#!% Cancer Patients Say" (i.e., "Lance Armstrong NEVER took performance-enhancing drugs!").

Of course, Twitter giveth and Twitter taketh away. When Denver TV station KCNC first broke this story, a lot of tweople thought it was fake.

It's all real, pal and it's all amazing. When you have a way to talk with thousands of strangers instantly and they can talk with you, you find out 140 characters can change lives.

"I went out to make a fan's day," Guthrie says, "and instead he made mine. I not only met a fan, I made a friend for life."

And that's a pretty good catch.

Rick Reilly | email

Columnist, ESPN.com