Christian Lupo

Christian Lupo, Dedicated Baseball Survivor

Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications at the national MSBL website wrote up this story.

Christian Lupo is one tough, focused, stubborn, and truly amazing 56-year old baseball player.  His 16-year journey has been a long one, thanks to lung disease, surgical setbacks, conditioning predicaments, and the simple issue of handling everything mentally, as he yearned to continue the fight to feed his love of baseball.

Amazingly, as you will read, Christian is back on the diamond as a member of the Bulls in the 60-over Classic division of the Central North Carolina MSBL.  I can’t begin to express the passion and determination this man possesses.  League President Rob Isbell and his 60-over commissioner of the league, Pat Ferrick, made us aware of Christian and we were fortunate to receive a moving account from the man himself, as he capsulized his fight to get back on the diamond, which began with a setback in 2008.  Here is Christian’s accounting in his own words.

Since I was six years old I have always played baseball. I always watched baseball on TV/radio, and was a frequent haunt at minor and major league baseball games. I have a particular love for minor league teams and non-professional baseball. Non-professionals play for the love of the game and possess a passion that matches my own for the great American sport.

I started playing MSBL baseball in a highly competitive New York league and went to MSBL Florida Tournaments. I moved to Michigan and played in the 20+ and over baseball league and played until my career took priority. My friends used to hear me say “Baseball is Life.”  While that seems hyperbolic, to me it represents the best of Americana. Needless to say, I can’t get enough of baseball.

Christian Lupo
Christian Lupo behind the plate

In 2008 I was diagnosed with IPF (idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis), a rare lung disease with no cure. Doctors gave me five years to live. I was a competitive weightlifter, had a successful career, and of course loved baseball. The disease progressed more rapidly than expected and a year later I was on oxygen, and two years later machines were keeping me alive.

My heart started to fail and I needed a lung transplant or I would die. At the last moment, I did receive lungs that were not a good match but I was alive. It wasn’t long before my body started rejecting those lungs and I was on oxygen again. Getting a lung transplant is like trading one disease for another. The transplant requires constant maintenance.

I take 40 pills a day, and exercise to make sure I expand my lungs. It is more critical when the lungs are not a good fit and the steroids and antibiotics are very difficult on your kidneys. The immune system is artificially suppressed with drugs harsh on the kidneys, so as a result, I have stage 3 kidney disease. The pills take a toll on my kidneys so I will need a kidney transplant before it’s all over. I will keep playing as long as I can.  By 2012 I was on oxygen again and I could only watch baseball on TV and at the stadiums.

10 years later I needed a second lung transplant. Michigan could not perform a second transplant since my kidneys were also in bad shape, so Duke University agreed to take my case. My second transplant was better, and the lungs were a good match. In the ICU my wife and I aimed to play baseball again. That became my goal.

My wife Kelly is an NAIA Hall of Famer and great athlete in her own right and was always with me watching games and keeping score. Much of our courtship was centered around watching baseball. She was invested in me playing baseball again. She is a PA of Neurosurgery at Cape Fear Hospital.  One of the nurses was an MSBL pitcher and I let him know I was a catcher. We talked about what pitches he threw, how I would manage his pitches, and our philosophies.

My journey back on the diamond wasn’t going to happen right away, as I had rejection issues, still took 40 pills a day, and was weakened from years of therapies. Two years later I tried out anyway in the 30+ league. In the batting cage, I took three hacks before stopping to catch my breath.  Needless to say, I wasn’t selected and felt humiliated, since at one time I was competitive.

Two years later I got myself in better shape and had the opportunity to play in the MSBL Classic Division of the Central North Carolina MSBL and thought I would give it another try. There was a lot of trepidation, since over the past 16 years I could not walk 10 feet, let alone run to first base, without the need to stop and catch my breath. Even if I had to ride the bench, I just wanted to be around baseball again.

I had already failed in a tryout (in my mind), and I still have less than half of my lung capacity. I have been told three times that the end was near. I feel blessed by God every day for every breath I take, have a wife that has more confidence in me than I do, and get to play the game I love.

I hope everyone in the league never takes for granted the ability to get out on the field and play the great American game.

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