If you’ve met Fernando Beltran, you probably haven’t forgotten him.
A 6’4, 230 pound senior from Ensenada, Mexico, Beltran is referred to as “a gentle giant” by his baseball coach Matt Parker. Classmates, professors – even the president of the university has expressed their admiration for the senior first baseman who was recently diagnosed with synovial sarcoma cancer.
Over the next two to three months Beltran will undergo various chemotherapy treatments and is expected to have surgery to remove a tumor. Because Beltran doesn’t have health insurance, he and his family are at a specialized treatment center in California. Staying with family friends, the Beltran family remains positive.
“Fernando is a special guy who means the world to the Oklahoma Wesleyan community,” Parker said. “He has been very upbeat and positive in our conversations. I spoke to him the other day and he said he feels pretty good.”
As many members of the Oklahoma Wesleyan community remember from last year’s baseball season, the coaches like to base their season philosophy on a meaningful story to inspire their players. Last year’s “Keep Your Fork” story led to a campus-wide hashtag and the team finished third in the nation.
Before Beltran’s diagnosis, the coaching staff had already decided on “Lay a Brick” as this season’s inspiration.
John Heywood, an English playwright who lived hundreds of years ago, is known for his poems and plays. Heywood has attributed witty one-liners such as, “The more the merrier,” “Better late than never,” and “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Parker received this information in a chain e-mail, to which he initially disregarded but later went back and reread.
“The story really stuck with me,” Parker said. “It about the forgotten second part of these phrases. And our last season certainly wasn’t built in a day.”
Typically when people use the phrase, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” they are wanting to remind someone that you need time to build something great. The danger is forgetting the second part of the phrase, Parker pointed out.
This is accurate, it does take time to build strong programs, however it’s crucial to remember the importance of each brick laid, Parker elaborated. One might think laying a brick is minimual but laying a brick every day, season after season – that is how you build an empire.
The “Lay a Brick” wristbands were already ordered and shipped to the baseball program before news of Beltran’s diagnosis. The coaches immediately decided to give all funds raised straight to Beltran for aid during his recovery. They decided to engrave ‘Buho’ on the inside of each band, which is the Spanish word for owl. ‘Buho’ is also a nickname Beltran’s friends gave him during his freshman year at OKWU.
The red bracelets that read Oklahoma Wesleyan on one side and “Lay a Brick” on the opposite are available to anyone who wants to donate. It costs $2 to make the band and the program is asking for a minimum of a $5 donation.
In a recent conversation with Parker, Beltran compared cancer recovery to a long at bat in a big game. With each base representing a new aspect of recover, and home plate symbolizing beating the disease all together.
With the fall baseball season leaving players antsy to begin conference games and excel in their new classes, Parker knows how important it is to be grateful to be part of the program. At the beginning of the week Bartlesville received one of the biggest rainstorms of the year, causing players to put in extra work to protect the field. Although it’s not a typical joyous occasion pulling a heavy tarp, it’s something to be appreciated, Parker explained.
“I know Beltran would give anything in the world to lift the tarp,” Parker said. “And that’s what our players need to remember. Brick by brick we can keep building our program and excel in school, in our spiritual lives and as a program.”
Parker is planning to visit Beltran at the end of September. He hopes to be able to bring along former teammate Giancarlo Sironi, who is close with Beltran. Sironi graduated last year from OKWU and is currently working in Dallas, TX.
To purchase your own “Lay a Brick” bracelet, or to donate straight to Beltran’s recovery fund you can e-mail Matt Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org