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‘Appreciate The Little Things’: Coach Who Battled Cancer

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(credit: CBS) Mike Max
Mike Max returned to WCCO-TV as a sports reporter and anchor in Apr...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Todd Oakes is the pitching coach at the University of Minnesota, and he will return to work Wednesday, amazingly.

Oakes is a husband, a father of three pitchers and a man who has been fighting for his life the last six months. That’s what makes this Christmas so special.

A Sports Family

The Oakes boys are bonded by much, starting with baseball. That’s where their father has coached two of them at the University of Minnesota. And it was there he was coaching last year when he felt rundown.

“It came down during our baseball season,” Oakes said. “I was just really rundown, tired, fatigued more than normal.”

The problem was acute myeloid leukemia, and it meant 80 days in the hospital and a bone marrow transplant.

“It was definitely a shock, obviously didn’t see it coming,” said Oakes’ son Tanner, who pitches for Augsburg. “But we went through it together, handled it pretty well, and it brought the family together.”

Oakes’ family and baseball attitude are intertwined — built to compete, play as a team.

“You know, the three things that got me through this are faith, family and friends,” he said.

The family had supporting phrases and made T-shirts to help Oakes in his struggle.

But it wasn’t just the three boys and dad in the fight, there was the most valuable mom.

“She’s a tough lady,” said Tyler Oakes, one of Oakes’ sons and a former Gopher pitcher. “My dad calls her the MVP of the family.”

Dad was a one-time professional pitcher himself. And Oakes has instilled in his sons the spirit to compete, be supportive teammates, and, in this case, supportive to their family.

This Christmas, the Oakes family gathered with appreciation for everything.

“I’ve said I’m a changed person,” Oakes said. “I think the biggest thing you learn…is just appreciate the little things in life.”

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