Less than two months into his professional baseball career, Kevin Frandsen broke his collarbone.
In hindsight, the injury was a blessing in disguise for the former San Francisco Giant and current Lehigh Valley IronPigs infielder.
It gave Frandsen more valuable time with his brother, DJ Frandsen, who “retired” from a 19-year battle with cancer on Sept. 16, 2004. He was 25.
“This collarbone thing was the greatest thing to ever happen to me because I got to spend seven more weeks with him,” Kevin Frandsen, 30, said. “We took a trip to Tahoe with him and the family. No one likes getting hurt, but I’ll take that.
“I got to take him to chemo(therapy) every day. We would sit there in absolute silence most of the days because of the things going on, then there were days we’d talk. I will never ever get those back and those are the days I’ll never forget.”
For the second straight season, Kevin Frandsen is wearing custom Nike red and yellow cleats with the initials “DJ” stitched on the heel.
This year, the shoes also read “Livestrong” on the tongues and have inscriptions on the inside soles: “Go the distance” and “Never give up.”
With every step he takes, Frandsen honors and remembers his brother and every other person that has been affected by cancer.
“I love having them because it’s something I’ll cherish forever,” the 2012 Triple-A All-Star said. “To be able to represent the company and what Lance Armstrong and all of them stand for, it means a lot. Wearing the red and yellow and the signature yellow of Livestrong means a lot to millions and millions of people.”
Kevin Frandsen and his family have been actively involved in the cancer community. The family established “19 For Life,” a non-profit foundation that honors DJ’s life and legacy and helps others cope with the difficulties surrounding cancer.
Every year the San Jose, Calif.-based organization hosts a charity bocce ball tournament at the end of January. Kevin Frandsen was quick to gloat that he and his teammates avenged a 2011 loss to his mother, Tracie, and her friends this winter.
“She talks smack every year,” he said with a grin. “Last year her and her friends beat me, my buddy and (San Francisco outfielder) Nate Schierholtz. They were talking all year. They were in the other bracket this year and my mom at the last second switched it and we skunked them 11-0. We didn’t even talk. We just walked off. That was enough.”
Friendly family competition aside, the event is hosted each year to mimic a favorite pastime of DJ and his roommates at Santa Clara University. Kevin said his brother had a bocce ball court in his backyard and it’s also a game anyone can play and enjoy.
This year’s sold-out event — the sixth annual — raised a record $30,000.
Frandsen said the foundation — named after DJ’s favorite number (and birth date, May 19) — has other charity events including a wine tasting in August and offers scholarships and endowments to local hospitals and high schoolers that have dealt with and overcome adversity.
“My brother lived a life of integrity, passion and love for his family, sports, Santa Clara University, Bellarmine College Prep — our high school — and was very outgoing and grateful toward the nurses, doctors and everyone that spent one second with him in a hospital,” Frandsen said. “We wanted to think of something that reflected that and our family and a bunch of his friends came together with this plan of ‘19 For Life.’”
DJ’s love for his family shined the most with his support of his older brother and his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Especially for his favorite team — the Giants; a dream that became a reality.
Kevin vividly recalls the last time his brother saw him play in person.
“The last time DJ ever saw me play, he and my dad (Dave) surprised me,” Frandsen said. “I was 4-for-4 with two doubles and I’ll never forget that. That was a great moment.”
About a week into Kevin’s stint in the instructional league in the Giants system, DJ Frandsen passed away, though the family prefer the term “retire.”
“He retired, he didn’t lose it,” Frandsen said. “Nineteen years of battling cancer, you kind of just get tired. A lot of us will never say he passed away from cancer, he was tired of cancer and that’s how he went.”