A champion starts somewhere. For Anthony Rizzo, the road to the World Series started on the baseball field at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland.
“How about the splits he did at first base? Acrobatic,” said Rizzo’s old assistant coach at the high school, Elliot Bonner.
Bonner didn’t let a long game with a rain delay keep him from watching his former star help the Chicago Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians.
As Bonner saw Rizzo get the final out, he couldn't help but think of Rizzo's quote in the high school baseball program nine years ago. Under goals, Rizzo wrote "win an MLB World Series."
“He’s a great dreamer,” Bonner said. “And sometimes you have to dream for it to come true.”
Now Rizzo has players following in his footsteps at Stoneman-Douglas dreaming big.
“I love the passion he plays with,” said Andrew Jenner, a sophomore first baseman. “The way he plays is what I’d like to be like.”
Rizzo is known for baseball, but his impact at his old high school and in his community goes well beyond the sport.
Rizzo beat cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Then created the Rizzo Family Foundation to help others.
“I was scared, I was angry, I was nervous,” Ronit Reoven described learning she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma three months after giving birth in 2012.
She is a psychology teacher at Stoneman-Douglas. Reoven and Rizzo didn’t know each other well while Rizzo attended the school. But when he found out about her diagnoses, he reached out to her.
“Through phone calls and texting, he was like my support system,” Reoven said.
So when Reoven saw her inspiration jump for joy after winning the championship, she knew just how trying his journey's been.
“It’s a beautiful story, I’m incredibly thrilled for him,” Reoven said.
Both Reoven and Rizzo are cancer free today, champions in their own right.