A Shared History of Cancer, a Love of Baseball and a Cubs-Mets Game

She wears it on plane rides for work. She wore it when her mother, Peggy, had major surgery. She left it at a restaurant once and raced back to find it.

“It was just a hat to me until I went through everything,” Wood said. “If there’s one possession I need with me for the rest of my life, it’s this hat.”

Wood’s story struck a chord with Alderson, who quietly dealt with a cancer diagnosis as the Mets swept the Cubs in the 2015 National League Championship Series and then lost the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.

Alderson, 69, is a former Marine, a lawyer and a longtime baseball executive. He has been hesitant to talk often about his own cancer because he does not want it to define him. Yet as he contended with his own diagnosis, he watched Forde deal gracefully and courageously with hers.

Forde spent more than two decades with the Mets. The mother of two children, she managed to stay in her job as the Mets ended a long run of losing seasons and nearly won a championship.

Jay Horwitz, the Mets’ vice president for media relations, was a close friend of Forde’s and said he could not talk her out of going to Kansas City during the 2015 Series.

“She was too weak to go, but she said, ‘I’ve waited too long to do this,’” Horwitz said. “It gave her hope, because she wanted to go to spring training in 2016, and she never gave up hope of not going.’’ He said there was no question in his mind that baseball had helped keep her alive.

The dedication ceremony for Forde, which Horwitz spearheaded, took place on a Friday. Alderson was there and spoke to reporters about how “everyone fights the disease physically and spiritually,” but not everyone wins the physical battle.

Omar Minaya, the general manager whom Alderson replaced, was there. So was Jim Duquette, who had the job before Minaya. Two former Mets managers — Bobby Valentine and Willie Randolph — were in attendance, along with the Mets’ captain, David Wright, and former players like Ron Darling, John Franco and Al Leiter.

Photo

Abby Wood, 31, meeting her favorite Cubs player, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is also a cancer survivor. Credit Uli Seit for The New York Times

And then a day after honoring Forde, Alderson got in touch with Wood. People at Sloan Kettering had told her that a fellow cancer patient who worked in baseball wanted to speak with her.

“I didn’t realize it was the general manger of the Mets,” Wood said. “I thought it was just some guy that worked for the Mets.”

Instead, it was Alderson, and he invited her and her family to whichever Cubs-Mets game they wanted to attend.

So last Monday evening, Wood — plus her boyfriend, her twin sister and her husband, and her parents, who flew in from Chicago — sat behind home plate. The Mets won, 6-1, but so what?

Wood, with the lucky Cubs hat on her head, met Lester and Rizzo. She told Rizzo that in August she would hit her ninth anniversary of being cancer-free. “I’ll be nine years cancer-free, too, in November,” Rizzo said.

“I started crying twice, maybe three times,” Wood said. “I never thought this would happen. This is the best day of my entire life.”

“This is all she wanted for years,’’ her mother said. “This is as cool as it gets,” Wood’s father added.

Wood just moved back to Chicago — to work for a medical technology company. She continues to be struck by the fact that a fellow cancer survivor — Alderson — reached out to her the way he did.

And Alderson, in the face of the daily challenge of trying to straighten out a 2017 Mets team besieged by too many injuries and too many defeats, knows that one week in June will still stand out a bit when the season ends.

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