Perry named WDN Pitcher of the Year|Ace overcomes cancer to have stellar season

Published 5:00 am Saturday, July 17, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
Sports Writer
WILLIAMSTON — Matthew Perry knows all about hard work.
Perry began the season as Williamston’s No. 2 pitcher, a lean and lanky junior with potential. By the end of the year Perry worked his way up to the top of the rotation, as his 1.33 earned run average helped him compile a 6-1 record.
Perry also knows a lot about overcoming obstacles.
After struggling in his sophomore year, Perry dedicated himself to improving his game. That off-season effort not only led to more personal success, but helped the Tigers rack up an 18-8 record and second place finish in the Four Rivers Conference behind a state-ranked Perquimans team.
Perry’s emergence allowed him to take over as the staff ace, and also paved the way for him to win the Washington Daily News Pitcher of the Year award.
“My approach to the game is that I work hard and do everything my coaches tell me to do to make sure I get better,” Perry said. “I didn’t pitch that well last year, so in the summer I made sure I started lifting weights more. I just really wanted to get myself in shape for this year.”
Mission accomplished.
With a fastball that comes across the plate somewhere in the low 80s, Perry may not be the most overpowering pitcher in the area, but his ability to work off the fastball with a quality curve and changeup make him extremely tough to hit.
While his stats and ability are very respectable, the fact that he is physically able to play a full season of baseball makes him remarkable.
A few years ago the pitcher went to the doctor to have some stretch marks on his back looked at. When you’re 14 and pushing past six feet tall that can happen.
However, the curveball pitcher was thrown a curve of his own when he was diagnosed with cancer.
“We were just shocked,” Perry’s mother Wanda said. “He had no symptoms, we took him to the doctor for something totally unrelated.”
Perry was told he had Hodgkin’s disease, cancer of the lymph nodes.
Reactions to news like that varies. Some people might get depressed, others scared or angry; probably a combination of all three.
The Tigers’ star pitcher never balked.
Despite having to get chemotherapy and radiation treatment every three weeks for six months, Perry was determined to live his life.
If there was any thought of not playing baseball, Perry quickly pushed it aside. Instead, his love for the game was used as fuel to help him get past the bumpy road that lied ahead.
“Without a doubt baseball was his motivater … He played baseball in between chemo treatments,” Wanda said. “He was playing travel ball at the time he was diagnosed and all he wanted to do was get better so he could play baseball.”
While the mind was willing, the body wasn’t always able to comply.
“The first couple of years (since the diagnosis) were bad,” Wanda said. “He didn’t have any energy, he was short of breath … It was kind of a long road coming back.”
 The road was rough, but it was navigated successfully.
Come September, Perry’s cancer will have been in remission for three years.
The 17-year old Perry has slowly been building up his strength and weight, which means by next baseball season area hitters better watch out.
Williamston coach Hank Tice said Perry, who dominated youth leagues prior to his diagnoses, has made major strides in regaining his form.
“I think this year is the first year he looked like what we thought he could be,” Tice said. “He was just so consistent this year. His one loss was a four-hitter against Perquimans, which is probably the best hitting team in eastern North Carolina.”
Next season Perry will once again dazzle the area with his fastball, curve and change. Tice feels like the rising senior has potential to win 10 games next spring. Whether he records a 10-win season or not, Perry can always be proud of his undefeated record versus cancer.