John Lester: An Inspirational Figure in Boston Red Sox Lore

Dan PieroniCorrespondent IMay 20, 2008

Attention all writers at Disney who specialize in inspirational and heart-tugging movies—you may have your next subject.

His name is John Lester, and he's flame-throwing Southpaw from Tacoma, Washington. At 24, you wouldn't think that a man of his age who plays professional baseball for a living would have gone through so much adversity, but you couldn't be more wrong.

Two years ago, Lester was on the fast track to becoming a future star. With a 7-2 record and a blazing fastball, Sox fans were jubilant. They felt that they had the best homegrown pitcher on their staff since Roger Clemens. Lester truly had electric stuff, but his one issue was control. 

Fans and figureheads alike felt that the kid could be a star if he'd just cut down on his walks. The future seemed bright for Lester. He was a can't-miss prospect that had made a great first impression in the American League.

Then in an instant, his fast track was derailed.

Following the 2006 season, Lester was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer that threatened to end his Major League career. Doctors feared he may never pitch again, and if he ever did, it would be a while.

But Lester defied the odds, and was able to pitch in a big league game less than a year after his diagnosis. That in itself was a remarkable achievement. If that was the last thing Jon Lester accomplished in the big leagues, he would still be remembered as a courageous young man that was able to pitch again, if only for one game.

As it turned out though, Lester had an encore up his sleeve.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona showed his confidence in Lester by giving him the ball in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series against the Colorado Rockies. The Sox were up 3-0 in the series, and Francona was counting on his young lefty to pitch the Red Sox to their second World Series championship in four years.

Lester did not disappoint—he labored through 5.2 innings, and gave it all he had. In the end, the Sox won and Lester was labeled an inspiration by fans and media members alike. What he accomplished is almost too good to be true, and would seem to make the perfect plot for a overblown Hollywood baseball movie.

There couldn't be anything Lester could possibly do to top clinching the World Series for his team—which brings us to last night.

On an overcast and windy night at Fenway Park, Jon Lester became the 18th pitcher in Red Sox history to throw a no-hitter, and the first left-handed pitcher to throw one at Fenway since Mel Parnell in 1956.

Over the course of his 130-pitch masterpiece Lester was hardly threatened, except for a sinking line drive by Jose Guillen in the fourth that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury made a great diving catch on.

Perhaps most amazing is the fact that a pitcher who's known for shaky control was in command of the strike zone all night long, even when he threw over 100 pitches. When he threw his last fastball past Alberto Callaspo to end the game, there was most likely not a dry eye in the house. Even Francona was crying.

This, my friends, is what makes baseball great. Nothing is fabricated and anyone can become a part of his history based on his accomplishments in one game. It is truly remarkable in that Lester has accomplished so much since his cancer scare

In throwing a no-hitter, he's accomplished something that great pitchers like Roger Clemens and Jim Palmer never did in their storied careers. Maybe his next accomplishment will be winning the Cy Young Award.

Considering what Lester's accomplished so far, you can never say never.